Street protests in three Asian countries — Cambodia, Bangladesh and Thailand — are a vivid reminder of the fragile state of democracy in many developing countries, particularly those that do not have independent judiciaries and professional police forces and militaries. While the immediate causes for the turmoil are different in each country, they share several shortcomings. The lack of sufficient democratic checks and balances in all three countries has undermined faith in elections and helped to create the conditions for civil unrest. Autocratic and corrupt political leaders have used government agencies, in some cases over decades, to serve themselves and their cronies.
In Cambodia, in recent days, military police officers have opened fire on protesters, killing several people. The protests started after Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia through intimidation and violence for nearly three decades, was declared the winner of an election in July that international monitoring organizations say was riddled with irregularities. Workers in the country’s clothing factories also joined the protests to demand that the government set the minimum wage for the industry at $160 a month; the government has offered to raise the minimum to $100 a month, up from $80 now. While the economy has grown fast in recent years, lifting up living standards, about one-fifth of the country’s population lives below the country’s poverty line.
Full Article: Democracy in Peril in Asia – NYTimes.com.