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Astrid Norén-Nilsson is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University. Her scholarship focuses on the politics of Cambodia in the post-conflict reconstruction era (1993—). She is the author of Cambodia’s Second Kingdom: Nation, Imagination, and Democracy (Cornell SEAP, 2016).

In the Shadow of Kem Ley: Is Civil Society the Solution to Cambodia’s Woes?

The assassination of political analyst Kem Ley in Phnom Penh in July 2016 suggests that civil society touches a nerve of great sensibility in today’s Cambodia. Cambodian democracy is currently experiencing its tensest period in two decades. If civil society plays a role in this context, it is not primarily within the traditional confines of the associational realm. Rather, in looking for a civil society challenge to party politics, we will have to shift our attention away from NGOs to the tentative emergence of social movements and to the fledgling grassroots democracy movement which Kem Ley himself spearheaded.

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