Cambodian People's Party

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Cambodian People's Party

AbbreviationCPP (since 1991)
KPRP (1951–1991)
PresidentHun Sen
Vice PresidentsSay Chhum
Sar Kheng
Founded28 June 1951; 69 years ago (1951-06-28)[1]
Preceded byIndochinese Communist Party
Headquarters203 Norodom Boulevard, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Youth wingCPP Youth
Membership (2020)Increase 6,000,000[2]
IdeologySince 1991:
National conservatism[5]
Economic liberalism[6]
Political positionSince 1991:
Big tent[8][9][10]
Left-wing to far-left
International affiliationCentrist Democrat International
Colors  Sky blue
SloganIndependence, Peace, Freedom, Democracy, Neutrality and Social Progress
"Anthem of the CPP"
58 / 62
National Assembly
125 / 125
1,645 / 1,646
Commune Council
11,051 / 11,572
Local government[11]
4,034 / 4,114

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP; Khmer: គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា, Keăknăkpăk Prâchéachón Kămpŭchéa, IPA: [kĕəʔnɑkpɑk prɑːciəcun kampuʔciə]) has been the ruling political party of Cambodia since 1979.

Founded in 1951, it was originally known as the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP; Khmer: គណបក្សប្រជាជនបដិវត្តន៍កម្ពុជា). After toppling the Khmer Rouge regime with the Vietnamese-backed liberation of Phnom Penh, it became the ruling party of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979–1989), which was later renamed the State of Cambodia (1989–1991). The current name, CPP, was adopted during the final year of the State of Cambodia, when the one-party system as well as the Marxist–Leninist ideology were abandoned. Originally rooted in communist and Marxist–Leninist ideologies, the party took on a more reformist outlook in the mid-1980s under Heng Samrin. In 1991, the CPP officially dropped its commitment to socialism, and has since embraced a free market economy, although its authoritarian tendencies remain.


Forerunner organizations[edit]

The original Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) was founded on 28 June 1951 by Cambodian nationalists who struggled to free Cambodia from French colonial rule. Nationalists in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos shared the same belief that to free themselves from France successfully they needed to work together. Thus the Indochinese Communist Party was formed in 1930.

However, the triumph of the Japanese during the early stage of World War II crippled French rule and helped to nurture nationalism in all three Indochinese countries. Consequently, the idea of an Indochinese-wide party was submerged in the rhetoric of fierce nationalism. In Cambodia, growing nationalist sentiment and national pride married historical mistrust and fear of neighbouring countries, which turned out to be a stumbling block for the ICP.

In 1955, a subsidiary party named People’s Party was established to contest in the national election that year. The name of the party was changed to the Workers' Party of Kampuchea (WPK) on 28 September 1960 and then to the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK, whose followers were named as the Khmer Rouge by Prince Norodom Sihanouk) in September 1966 with its headquarter in Ratanak Kiri province.

Constitution and early days Pen Sovan's leadership (1979–1981)[edit]

In early 1979, KPRP members who overthrew the Khmer Rouge's regime to end the genocide held a congress. At this gathering, they declared themselves the true successors of the original KPRP founded in 1951 and labelled the congress as the Third Party Congress, thus not recognizing the 1963, 1975 and 1978 congresses of CPK as legitimate. The party considered 28 June 1951 as its founding date. A national committee led by Pen Sovan and Roh Samai was appointed by the Congress. The women's wing of the party, the National Association of Women for the Salvation of Kampuchea, was also established in 1979 with a vast national network of members that extended to the district level.

The existence of the party was kept secret until its 4th congress in May 1981, when it appeared publicly and assumed the name KPRP. The name-change was stated to be carried out "to clearly distinguish it from the reactionary Pol Pot party and to underline and reassert the continuity of the party's best traditions". Very little is known about the Third Party Congress, also known as the Congress for Party Reconstruction, except that Pen Sovan was elected first secretary of the Central Committee and that the party had between sixty-two and sixty-six regular members. The congress elected a Central Committee of 7 members: General Secretary Pen Sovan, Permanent Members: Heng Samrin and Chea Sim; and Central Members: Hun Sen, Bou Thang, Van Son and Chan Sy. Chan Kiri is Head of the Party Commission for Inspection. March 1979, Van Son and Chan Kiri was dismissed and Pen Sovan, Chea Sim and Say Phouthang (chair of the Central Organization Committee of the Party) formation of the Party' Central Standing.

Fourth Party Congress: change of strategy (1981)[edit]

In Pen Sovan's political report to the Fourth Party Congress held 26 to 29 May 1981, he was careful to distance the KPRP from Pol Pot's CPK and he denounced the CPK as a traitor to the party and to the nation. The KPRP decided at the Fourth Party Congress to operate "openly". This move seemed to reflect the leadership's growing confidence in its ability to stay in power despite the ongoing guerrilla war with the Khmer Rouge. The move may have had a practical dimension as well because it involved the people more actively in the regime's effort to build the country's political and administrative infrastructure after the Khmer Rouge genocide from 1975 to 1979.

The Fourth Party Congress reviewed Pen Sovan's political report and defined the party's strategy for the next several years. The Congress adopted five "basic principles of the party line", which were to uphold the banners of patriotism and of international proletarian solidarity; to defend the country (the primary and sacred task of all people); to restore and to develop the economy and the culture in the course of gradual transition toward socialism; to strengthen military solidarity with Vietnam, Laos, the Soviet Union and other socialist nations; and to develop "a firm Marxist–Leninist party".

At the Congress, it was decided that henceforth the party would be known as the KPRP in order to distinguish it from "the reactionary Pol Pot party and to underline and reassert the community of the party's best traditions". The Fourth Party Congress also proclaimed its resolve to stamp out the "reactionary ultra-nationalist doctrine of Pol Pot", to emphasize a centralized government and collective leadership and to reject personality cults. The "ultra-nationalist doctrine" issue was an allusion to Pol Pot's racist, anti-Vietnamese stance. The Congress, attended by 162 delegates, elected twenty-one members of the party Central Committee, who in turn elected Pen Sovan as general secretary and the eight members of the party inner circle to the Political Bureau (Heng Samrin, number 2 member; Chea Sim, number 4 member; Hun Sen, number 6 member; Chan Sy, minister of defense and prime minister from December 1981; number 7, including Chea Soth, deputy prime minister, Bou Thang, chair of the Party’s Central Propaganda Committee, deputy prime minister from 1982 to 1992 and minister of defense from 1982 to 1986; and Chan Sy), seven members of Secretariat (including Hun Sen). It also adopted a new statute for the party, but did not release the text. According to Michael Vickery, veterans of the independence struggle of the 1946 to 1954 period dominated the party Central Committee. A majority of the Central Committee members had spent all or part of the years 1954 to 1970 in exile in Vietnam or in the performance of "duties abroad".

Heng Samrin's leadership (1981–1991)[edit]

The KPRP's pro-Vietnamese position did not change when Heng Samrin suddenly replaced Pen Sovan as party leader on 4 December 1981. Heng Samrin and Chea Sim is the first and second positions in the Politburo. Pen Sovan, who was reportedly flown to Hanoi under Vietnamese guard, was "permitted to take a long rest. In any case, the new general secretary won Hanoi's endorsement by acknowledging Vietnam's role as equal partner in the Cambodian-Vietnamese relationship.

In mid-1981, the KPRP had countrywide party branches in Phnom Penh, in Kampong Som and in the eighteen provincial capitals. Party membership was estimated at between 600 and 1,000, a considerable increase over 1979, but still only a fraction of the number of cadres needed to run the party and the government. In 1981, several of the 18 provinces had only one party member each and Kampong Cham, the largest province with a population of more than 1 million, had 30 regular members, according to Cambodia specialist Ben Kiernan.

Since 1 February 1983 Say Phouthang (Secretary, Head of the Party Commission for Inspection), Chan Sy and Bou Thang occupied respectively the third, fourth and fifth positions in the Politburo. On 1 May 1985, Hun Sen was named the fourth, just behind the Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and Say Phouthang.

The party held its Fifth Party Congress from 13 to 16 October 1985 to reflect on the previous five years and to chart a new course for the next several years. The party's membership had increased to 7,500 regulars (4,000 new members joined in 1985 alone). The party had an additional pool of 37,000 "core" members from which it could recruit tested party regulars. There were only 4,000 core members in mid-1981. According to General Secretary Heng Samrin's political report, the KPRP had twenty-two regional committees and an undisclosed number of branches, circles and cells in government agencies, armed forces units, internal security organs, mass organizations, enterprises, factories and farms. The report expressed satisfaction with party reconstruction since 1981, especially with the removal of the "danger of authoritarianism" and the restoration of the principles of democratic centralism and of collective leadership. However, it pointed out "some weaknesses" that had to be overcome. For example, the party was "still too thin and weak" at the district and the grass-roots levels. Ideological work lagged and lacked depth and consistency; party policies were implemented very slowly, if at all, with few, if any, timely steps to rectify failings; and party cadres, because of their propensities for narrow-mindedness, arrogance and bureaucratism were unable to win popular trust and support. Another major problem was the serious shortage of political cadres (for party chapters), economic and managerial cadres and technical cadres. Still another problem that had to be addressed "in the years to come" was the lack of a documented history of the KPRP. Heng Samrin's political report stressed the importance of party history for understanding "the good traditions of the party".

The report to the Fifth Congress noted that Heng Samrin's administration, in coordination with "Vietnamese volunteers", had destroyed "all types" of resistance guerrilla bases. The report also struck a sobering note: the economy remained backward and unbalanced, with its material and technical bases still below pre-war levels and the country's industries were languishing from lack of fuel, spare parts and raw materials. Transition toward socialism, the report warned, would take "dozens of years".

To hasten the transition to socialism, the Fifth Congress unveiled the PRK's First Plan, covering the years 1986 to 1990. The program included the addition of the "private economy" to the three sectors of the economy mentioned in the Constitution (the state sector, collective sector and the family sector). Including the private economy was necessary because of the "very heavy and very complex task" that lay ahead in order to transform the "nonsocialist components" of the economy to an advanced stage. According to the political report submitted to the congress, mass mobilization of the population was considered crucial to the successful outcome of the First Plan. The report also noted the need to cultivate "new socialist men" if Cambodia were to succeed in its nation-building. These men were supposed to be loyal to the fatherland and to socialism; to respect manual labor, production, public property and discipline; and to possess "scientific knowledge". Heng Samrin's political report also focused on foreign affairs. He recommended that Phnom Penh strengthen its policy of alliance with Vietnam, Laos, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. He stressed—as Pen Sovan had in May 1981—that such an alliance was, in effect "a law" that guaranteed the success of the Cambodian revolution. At the same time, he urged the congress and the Cambodian people to spurn "narrow-minded chauvinism, every opportunistic tendency, and every act and attitude infringing on the friendship" between Cambodia and its Indochinese neighbors.

The KPRP's three objectives for the period 1986 to 1990 were to demonstrate military superiority "along the border and inside the country" for complete elimination of all anti-PRK activities; to develop political, military and economic capabilities; and to strengthen special relations with Vietnam as well as mutual cooperation with other fraternal countries. Before Heng Samrin's closing address on 16 October, the 250 party delegates to the congress elected a new Central Committee of 45 members (31 full members and 14 alternates). The Central Committee in turn elected Heng Samrin as general secretary, a new Political Bureau (nine full members: Heng Samrin, Chea Sim, Hun Sen as Second Secretary, Say Phouthang, Bou Thang, Chea Soth, Men Sam An, Math Ly, Ney Pena and two alternates), a five-member Secretariat (Heng Samrin, Hun Sen, Bou Thang, Men Sam An and Ney Pena) and seven members of the Central Committee Control Commission.

After the Fifth Congress, the party's organizational work was intensified substantially. The KPRP claimed that by the end of 1986 it had more than 10,000 regular members and 40,000 candidate members who were being groomed for regular status.

As of 1990, members of the Politburo were Heng Samrin (General Secretary), Chea Sim, Hun Sen, Chea Soth, Math Ly, Tea Banh, Men Sam An, Nguon Nhel, Sar Kheng, Bou Thang, Ney Pena, Say Chhum and alternate members included Sing Song, Sim Ka and Pol Saroeun. Members of the Secretariat were Heng Samrin, Say Phouthang, Bou Thang, Men Sam An and Sar Kheng.

Hun Sen's leadership (1991–present)[edit]

In 1991, the party was renamed Cambodian People's Party (CPP) during a United Nations-sponsored peace and reconciliation process. Politburo and the Secretariat to enter into the new Standing Committee, Chea Sim as President and Hun Sen as Vice-president. Despite being rooted in socialism, the CPP was not ideologically blind. In fact, it has always adopted a pragmatic approach to protect and promote the interests of the nation and the party. For instance, the CPP played an indispensable role in Cambodian peace negotiation process, which led to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on 23 October 1991 and the creation of the second Kingdom of Cambodia. CPP leaders have been among the most reformists to stir Cambodia towards free market economy and regional integration.

Under the leadership of the CPP, Cambodia has been transformed from a war-torn country to a lower-middle-income economy in 2016. It aims to turn Cambodia into a higher-middle-income country by 2030 and high-income country by 2050. Ideologically, an increasing number of CPP senior leaders claim that the Cambodian ruling party has adopted a centrist democracy. They believe that it is the middle path between extreme capitalism and extreme socialism, with the emphasis on the values and principles of social market economy in which free market economy goes hand in hand with social and environmental protection, and the promotion of humanism guided by Buddhist teaching.

Having said that, academics such as John Ciorciari have observed that the CPP still continues to maintain its communist-era party structures and that many of its top-ranking members were derived from KPRP. Also, despite Hun Sen being only the deputy leader of the party until 2015, he had de facto control of the party. Prime Minister Hun Sen has continued to lead the party to election victories after the transition to democracy. It won 64 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly in the 1998 elections, 73 seats in the 2003 elections and 90 seats in the 2008 elections, winning the popular vote by the biggest margin ever for a National Assembly election with 58% of the vote. The CPP also won the 2006 Senate elections. The party lost 22 seats in the 2013 elections, with opposition gained. Since 2018, the party commands all 125 seats in the National Assembly, and 58 of 62 seats in the Senate. Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, has served as the party's President since 2015.

The PRK in power (1979–1992)[edit]

  • Heng Samrin: General Secretary of the KPRP (1981–1991); Chairman of the Revolutionary Council (later the Council of State) (1979–1992)
  • Chea Sim: Minister of the Interior (1979–1981); President of the National Assembly (1981–92), Chairman of the Council of State (1992–1994)
  • Pen Sovan: Minister of Defense (1979–1981); General Secretary of the KPRP (1979–81); Prime Minister (1981)
  • Hun Sen: Minister of Foreign Affairs (1979–1986; 1987–1990); Deputy Prime Minister (1981–85), Prime Minister (1985–1993)
  • Chan Sy: Minister of defense (1981–1982), Prime Minister (1981–1984)
  • Say Phouthang: Vice President of the State Council (1979–1993)
  • Chea Soth: Minister of Planning (1982–1986), Deputy Prime Minister (1982–1992)
  • Bou Thang: Deputy Prime Minister (1982–1992), Minister of Defense (1982–1986)
  • Math Ly: Vice President of the National Assembly
  • Kong Korm: Minister of Foreign Affairs (1986–1987)
  • Hor Namhong: Minister of Foreign Affairs (1990–1993)

List of party leaders[edit]

  KPRP (General Secretary)   CPP (President)

Portrait Name From Until Length Offices held
No image.svg Pen Sovan 5 January 1979 5 December 1981 2 years, 334 days Prime Minister (1981)
Minister of Defence (1979–1981)
Samdech Heng Samrin 2018 cropped.jpg Heng Samrin 5 December 1981 17 October 1991 9 years, 316 days Chairman of the People's Revolutionary Council (1979–1992)
Chea Sim 3x4.jpg Chea Sim 17 October 1991 8 June 2015 23 years, 234 days Chairman of the National Assembly (1981–1993)
Chairman of the Council of State (1992–1993)
President of the Senate (1999–2015)
Hun Sen (2018) cropped (2).jpg Hun Sen 20 June 2015 incumbent 5 years, 304 days Prime Minister (1985–present)


The party is headed by a 34-member Permanent Committee, commonly referred to as the Politburo (after its former Communist namesake). The current members are (with their party positions in brackets):

Election results[edit]

National Assembly election[edit]

Election Party leader Votes Seats Position Government
# % ± # ±
1981 Pen Sovan 2,898,709 90.3 New
117 / 117
New Increase 1st KPRP
1993 Hun Sen 1,533,471 38.2 Decrease 52.1
51 / 120
Decrease 66 Decrease 2nd FUNCINPEC–CPP–BLDP
1998 2,030,790 41.4 Increase 3.2
64 / 122
Increase 13 Increase 1st CPP–FUNCINPEC
2003 2,447,259 47.3 Increase 5.9
73 / 123
Increase 9 Steady 1st CPP–FUNCINPEC
2008 3,492,374 58.1 Increase 10.8
90 / 123
Increase 17 Steady 1st CPP–FUNCINPEC
2013 3,235,969 48.8 Decrease 9.3
68 / 123
Decrease 22 Steady 1st CPP
2018 4,889,113 76.8 Increase 28.0
125 / 125
Increase 57 Steady 1st CPP

Communal elections[edit]

Election Party leader Votes Chiefs Councillors Position
# % ± # ± # ±
2002[12] Hun Sen 2,647,849 60.9 New
1,598 / 1,621
7,552 / 11,261
New Increase 1st
2007[13] 3,148,533 60.8 Decrease 0.1
1,591 / 1,621
Decrease 7
7,993 / 11,353
Increase 441 Steady 1st
2012[14] 3,631,082 61.8 Increase 1.0
1,592 / 1,633
Increase 1
8,292 / 11,459
Increase 299 Steady 1st
2017[15] 3,540,056 50.8 Decrease 11.0
1,156 / 1,646
Decrease 436
6,503 / 11,572
Decrease 1,789 Steady 1st

Senate elections[edit]

Election Party leader Votes Seats Position Outcome
# % ± # ±
2006 Chea Sim 7,854 69.2
45 / 57
Increase 14 Steady 1st Supermajority
2012 8,880 77.8 Increase 8.6
46 / 57
Increase 1 Steady 1st Supermajority
2018 Say Chhum 11,202 95.9 Increase 18.1
58 / 58
Increase 12 Steady 1st Supermajority

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Niem, Chheng (26 June 2019). "CPP set to mark anniversary, vows to maintain public trust". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Ruling Party's New Headquarters Funded by Members and Costs $40M: CPP Spokesperson". VOA. 7 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  3. ^ Prak, Chan Thul (2 February 2018). "Cambodian government criminalizes insult of monarchy". Reuters. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  4. ^ Quackenbush, Casey (7 January 2019). "40 Years After the Fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia Still Grapples With Pol Pot's Brutal Legacy". TIME. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  5. ^ Aflaki, Inga N. (2016). Entrepreneurship in the Polis. Routledge.
  6. ^ Ven, Rathavong (5 June 2018). "CPP determined to maintain Kingdom's peace and development". Khmer Times. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP)". Global Security. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  8. ^ Diamond, Larry (April 2002). "Elections Without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes" (PDF). Journal of Democracy. 13 (2): 31, 32. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  9. ^ McCargo, Duncan (October 2005). "Cambodia: Getting Away with Authoritarianism?" (PDF). Journal of Democracy. 16 (4): 98. doi:10.1353/jod.2005.0067. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  10. ^ Hughes, Caroline (January–February 2009). "Consolidation in the Midst of Crisis" (PDF). Asian Survey. 49 (1): 211–212. doi:10.1525/as.2009.49.1.206. ISSN 1533-838X. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  11. ^ Khorn, Savi (11 June 2019). "Ministry: Councillors to be appointed by next Monday". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Report on the Commune Council Elections – 3 February 2002" (PDF). Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL). March 2002. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Final Assessment and Report on 2007 Commune Council Elections" (PDF). Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL). 1 April 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Final Assessment and Report on 2012 Commune Council Elections" (PDF). Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL). October 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Final Assessment and Report on 2017 Commune Council Elections" (PDF). Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL). October 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2018.


  • Guo, Sujian (2006). The Political Economy of Asian Transition from Communism. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0754647358.

External links[edit]