Political System in Cambodia
National politics in Cambodia take place within the framework of the nation's constitution of 1993. The government is a constitutional monarchy operated as a parliamentary representative democracy. The Prime Minister of Cambodia, an office held by Hun Sen since 1985, is the head of government, while the King of Cambodia (currently Norodom Sihamoni) is the head of state. The prime minister is appointed by the king, on the advice and with the approval of the National Assembly. The prime minister and the ministerial appointees exercise executive power.
Legislative powers are shared by the executive and the bicameral Parliament of Cambodia, which consists of a lower house, the National Assembly and an upper house, the Senate. Members of the 123-seat National Assembly are elected through a system of proportional representation and serve for a maximum term of five years. The Senate has 61 seats, two of which are appointed by the king and two others by the National Assembly, and the rest elected by the commune councillors from the 24 provinces of Cambodia. Senators serve six-year terms.
On 14 October 2004, King Norodom Sihamoni was selected by a special nine-member Royal Throne Council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week prior. Sihamoni's selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the king's half-brother and current chief advisor), both members of the throne council. He was enthroned in Phnom Penh on 29 October 2004.
Officially a multiparty democracy, in reality, "the country remains a one-party state dominated by the Cambodian People's Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen, a recast Khmer Rouge official in power since 1985. The open doors to new investment during his reign have yielded the most access to a coterie of cronies of his and his wife, Bun Rany. Cambodia's government has been described by the Human Rights Watch's Southeast Asian director, David Roberts, as a "relatively authoritarian coalition via a superficial democracy".
Local Laws and Customs
If you’re arrested and convicted of a crime in Cambodia you can expect a long prison sentence. Pre-trial detention can also last many months.
The legal process in Cambodia is unpredictable, lacks transparency and is open to interference from powerful political and business interests. The investigation and trial process falls far below the standard expected in the UK. British nationals in Cambodia should be aware that there are limits to the assistance the British Embassy can offer to those with concerns about the fairness of their trial, as we are unable to interfere in the legal processes of a host country.
The conditions in Cambodian prisons are extremely poor and overcrowded. Medical facilities in prisons are also extremely poor. The UK has no prisoner transfer agreement with Cambodia so if you’re found guilty you can expect to serve your full prison term in Cambodia, have your visa revoked and be removed when released.
Sexual abuse against children is a serious crime. The UK and Cambodian authorities are committed to combating travelling child sex offenders. Those who commit sex offences against children abroad can also be prosecuted in the UK.
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs, including Class C, are severe. Drugs have also caused of a number of deaths of overseas visitors to Cambodia. These are suspected to be a result of purity issues, or adulteration by unknown substances.
Never take photographs in or near airports or military bases. Ask permission before taking pictures of people, especially monks and other religious figures.
The Cambodian authorities have issued an official code of conduct for visitors to Angkor Wat and other religious sites, including a dress code. You should not wear skirts or shorts above the knee or tops that reveal bare shoulders. If you don’t follow the dress code you may be refused admission to the sites.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual activity or the organisation of LGBT events in Cambodia, but public attitudes can be mixed. There is no legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but the British Embassy has no recorded cases of discrimination towards LGBT travellers. The LGBT community is becoming more visible, including through gay clubs, club nights and the work of some human rights organisations. Pride events are held annually in Phnom Penh.