Ceremony for Cambodian leader to show 'stability'

This article is more than 12 months old

ANGKOR Thousands of monks joined Cambodian Premier Hun Sen yesterday for a prayer ceremony by the Angkor temple, lauding "political stability" after the main opposition party was dissolved, cementing his grip on power.

Mr Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia since 1985, making him one of the world's longest-serving leaders, an accolade earned through cold political strategy, deft public relations and repression.

His rule appears virtually assured after a court early this month disbanded the main opposition party ahead of next year's elections.

As dawn rose over Angkor Wat, Mr Hun Sen joined prayers with 5,000 Buddhist monks.

Apsara dancers went through their moves as thousands gathered for the event.

Mr Hun Sen, who has cast himself as a figure of stability in a country ravaged by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, was at the centre of some careful choreography. Kneeling, hands clasped in prayer, he received blessings from monks who changed Buddhist mantras.

Analysts had predicted a strong challenge to Mr Hun Sen at next year's election, after the youth vote in 2013 took the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to its best ever electoral result. But the CNRP was dissolved this month over accusations it conspired with the US in a treason plot.

The case was blasted by Washington as baseless, while rights groups said it has hastened the country's descent into a de facto one-party state.

Mr Hun Sen has turned up the anti-American rhetoric to justify the unprecedented crackdown, which has included shuttering critical media with trumped-up tax charges or arresting journalists on allegations of spying. - AFP