Some analysts have argued that Thailand’s junta is learning from the authoritarian leaders of China. There’s debates about that, yet we don’t doubt that, among other things, The Dictator would love to control the internet as tightly as his Chinese counterparts.
We now know that other authoritarian leaders are learning from Thailand’s military dictatorship. At The Cambodia Daily, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, reckons “authoritarian ideas ‘spread like the flu among ASEAN leaders’.”
While we get the point, we’d observe that authoritarian ideas have long dominated in ASEAN countries.
The reason for his observation follows Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promising “sweeping changes to Cambodia’s law governing political parties in a move that could eliminate the CNRP and remove opposition leader Sam Rainsy or any other politician convicted by Cambodia’s courts—from a leadership position.”
His model? He says, “I think that we should follow Thailand, which means anyone committing serious mistakes would cause their party to be dissolved…”. He added:
“The People’s Power Party was dissolved just because Samak Sundaravej appeared as a chef on television,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a side gig that Thai courts deemed a conflict of interest. “He then lost his position as prime minister and they also dissolved his party.”
“So we follow it,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the Thai example, saying he sought to “dissolve parties and then ban the political rights for not just a few leaders, but all the party’s board of directors.”
Authoritarian leaders are always looking for more ways to solidify their hold on power. The Dictator may well have looked at Hun Sen’s ability to manipulate elections and learned from that too.