Book Review: Sebastian Strangio. 2014. Hun Sen’s Cambodia

Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 349
However, this book does not provide any in-depth historical accounts of the
significant changes in political landscape and does not make any predictions for
the future based on the dynamics that it does record. This work is essentially a
descriptive account of political parties and their functions rather than a provision
of analysis on these topics. The authors of the different chapters are able to trace
the evolution of the political parties in South Asia to provide a deeper understand-
ing of modern politics in South Asia. However, the focus on past events and the
dependency on previous works have resulted in a lack of original insight.
The chapter distribution has been unequal with four chapters being dedicated
to India, two chapters to Sri Lanka and only one chapter to Pakistan. Though the
book is a compilation of works of independent scholars, there is not a single
coherent theme linking all the chapters together. There is also a failure to establish
influence of politics in one country has had on the other which has been intrinsic
in case of South Asian politics. All in all, Parties and Political Change provides a
good overview of the various dynamics of South Asian political parties and would
make a good introduction for new readers. However, the oversights in its analyses
and imbalanced focus ensure this book has little for those who are well read
on South Asian parties and political changes.
Kalpana Jha
Research Associate
Social Science BAHA, Kathmandu, Nepal
Sebastian Strangio. 2014. Hun Sen’s Cambodia. New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press. 355 pp. ISBN: 978-0-300-19072-4
DOI: 10.1177/2347797015601922
Cambodia today appears as a stable, emerging democracy with fast-developing
and booming economy, which strides in education and health, as well as in the
United Nations-sponsored trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, which are hall-
mark. The country thus seems to have come a long way since its 1969–1999 years
of civil war and related brutalities.
In Hun Sen’s Cambodia, by the author Sebastian Strangio places responsibility
for such change on the shoulders of Hun Sen, who has served as prime minister
since 1985. However, Strangio, previously a Phnom Penh Post journalist, argues
that though Hun Sen arguably was instrumental in establishing stability and
economic growth for Cambodia, the democracy he has led is a mirage behind
which patronage and authoritarianism have been the principal levers. Indeed,
Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has come to dominate both state and
society making the country, in fact, ‘his’ Cambodia as Strangio’s title implies.
Strangio’s book first follows the historical ascent of Hun Sen over the country.
It describes Cambodia’s long heritage of absolutism stretching back to the dawn

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