With the potential for a power shift in the upcoming 2018 elections, Sen warned that conflict is likely if the opposing CNRP (Cambodia National Rescue Party) party gains control. A member of the CPP (Cambodian People’s Party) controlling party, Sen has argued that peace can only continue on his terms and that a shift in power will result in rebellions by the CPP-aligned chiefs of the military and police under a CNRP regime.
In the article, "Hun Sen, Pondering Defeat, Has War on Mind", Ciorciari is quoted saying such warnings may be salient given Sen’s violent history.
“It’s possible that Hun Sen’s warnings about an army backlash are electoral bluster, but given his past willingness to use force for political advantage, they have to be taken seriously,” said Ciorciari. “There’s a chance that the CPP will hand over power peacefully if it loses at the ballot box—authoritarian regimes sometimes do exit without a fight—but it would be rash to presume a handover would be peaceful.”
“A greater degree of trust between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy would raise—but not guarantee—the prospects of a peaceful transition if the CNRP wins," said Ciorciari. "The same would be true of a pledge by CPP leaders to respect electoral outcomes.”
John Ciorciari is an assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School and co-director of the Ford School’s International Policy Center. His interests include international law, politics, and international finance, and his current research focuses on the promise and pitfalls of shared-sovereignty agreements.