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Mention Cambodia to people today and the images conjured up are most likely those of “farming cooperatives” and Toul Sleng, both images from the Khmer Rouge’s brutal Democratic Republic of Kampuchea of the 1970s. In fact, when conducting research in Cambodia for this particular study, it was next to impossible to convince individuals to discuss anything but Pol Pot and his Central Committee. The research could only be accomplished by first listening to and acknowledging personal stories or local legends of brutal times under the regime, and then of course guaranteeing that everything was confidential and, most importantly, anonymous. I have a particularly clear memory of listening attentively to one man’s moving story of how he managed to survive the Khmer Rouge by escaping a particularly violent farm where he was certain to die in order to move to another that he had heard had kinder “management.” After he finished his story of the Khmer Rouge, I asked him if perhaps we could talk about the current government of Cambodia, and in particular Hun Sen. I watched his expression change dramatically from one of contemplation and sadness to one of concern and what I identified as fear. He responded, “that is very risky,” as he glanced around to see if anyone in the small restaurant where we were drinking coffee could hear our exchange.
KeywordsPolitical Party Liberal Democracy Local Leadership Democratic Institution Charismatic Leader
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