The news of the death at 82 of Chea Sim, the president of the Cambodian Senate, has been greeted by Human Rights Watch with a sharp denunciation of his role as a Khmer Rouge official during the Pol Pot regime and as a reflection of the fact that officials from that period still benefit from impunity under Hun Sen's rule.
This familiar and justified account of Cambodian governance comes at a time when the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) is once again bogged down in disputes over whether additional defendants will be charged with crimes committed while Pol Pot was in power.
In more immediate domestic political terms, Chea Sim's death brings to an end the long-running tension between he and Hun Sen, who were frequently at odds within the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). As a well-sourced report in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post notes, probably the most interesting question that arises following Chea Sim's death is who will succeed him as leader of his CPP faction. The most likely figure is the ambitious Minister of the Interior, Sar Kheng, widely regarded as a hardliner on matters of government control.
Yet as Sebastian Strangio, author of the justly praised Hun Sen's Cambodia observes in the article, the internal processes of the CPP are 'opaque' and it may be some time before we are able to judge the extent to which Hun Sen's position is affected by the disappearance of his fractious colleague.
Photo by Flickr user Iwishmynamewasmarsha.