Cambodian People's Party

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Cambodian People's Party
Kanakpak Pracheachon Kâmpuchéa
President Hun Sen
Vice Presidents Say Chhum
Sar Kheng
Founded 28 June 1951
Headquarters Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Ideology 1951–91:
 • Communism
 • Marxism–Leninism
 • Big tent[1][2][3]
Political position Centre to Centre-left
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
Colors      CPP
46 / 61
National Assembly
68 / 123
1,156 / 1,646
Commune Council
6,503 / 11,572

The Cambodian People's Party (Khmer: គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា, Kanakpak Pracheachon Kâmpuchéa; CPP), founded as the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (Khmer: គណបក្សប្រជាជនបដិវត្តន៍កម្ពុជា, KPRP), is the current ruling party of Cambodia. It was the sole legal party in the country at the time of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979–1989) and during the first two years of the State of Cambodia. Its name was changed during the transitional times of the State of Cambodia, when the single-party system, as well as the Marxist–Leninist ideology were abandoned. Having governed Cambodia since 1979, it is one of the longest-ruling parties in the world. Its main rival is the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The General Secretary of the party from 1979 to 1981 was Pen Sovan.[4] The KPRP was originally a Marxist–Leninist party, although it took on a more reformist outlook in the mid-1980s under Heng Samrin's leadership.[5] In the 1990s, the KPRP officially dropped its commitment to socialist ideology altogether when it renamed itself the Cambodian People's Party.[6] Since the 2013 election, the party maintains a slim majority in the National Assembly, and a supermajority in the Senate. Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, has served as the party's President since 2015.


Forerunner organizations[edit]

Original party flag, which later became the state flag of the People's Republic of Kampuchea in 1979

The original Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) was founded in French colonial times, on 28 June 1951, when the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930, was dismembered into three national parties, the KPRP, the Vietnam Workers' Party and the Lao Itsala, prior to the independence of the three countries. On 21 September 1951, the People's Revolutionary Party Khmer established in North Vietnam (Vietnam), Son Ngoc Minh was appointed as Acting Chairman of the party. Second Party Congress meeting in September 1960.

The name of the party was changed to the WPK in 1960 and then to the CPK in 1966. In one sense the KPRP was a new organization; in another sense it is the continuation of the parties that preceded it. The date of the KPRP founding is uncertain, although the First Party Congress held publicly was convened in May 1981; the party may have come into existence after mid-1978.[7]

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

In early 1979, a group of dissident CPK members held a congress. At this gathering, the dissident group declared itself the true successor of the original KPRP founded in 1951 (which had evolved into the CPK), and labelled the congress as the '3rd party congress' (thus not recognizing the 1963, 1975 and 1978 congresses of CPK as legitimate). The party considered June 28, 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.[8]

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 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'.[9]

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 May 26 to 29, 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.

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 - No. 2 member, Chea Sim - No. 4 member, Hun Sen - No. 6 member, Chan Sy, minister of defense and prime minister from December 1981 - No. 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 member 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[edit]

The KPRP's pro-Vietnamese position did not change when Heng Samrin suddenly replaced Pen Sovan as party leader on December 4, 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," but observers believed that he was purged for not being sufficiently pro-Vietnamese. In any case, the new general secretary won Hanoi's endorsement by acknowledging Vietnam's role as senior partner in the Cambodian-Vietnamese relationship. The party recognized the change in leadership symbolically by changing the official founding date of the KPRP from February 19, 1951, to June 28, 1951, in deference to the Vietnam Workers' Party (Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam), which was established in March 1951.

In mid-1981, the KPRP was essentially a skeleton organization. It had few party branches except for those in Phnom Penh, in Kampong Saom, 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 only 30 regular members, according to Cambodia specialist Ben Kiernan. Since February 1, 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. May 1, 1985, Hun Sen was named the fourth, just behind the Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and Say Phouthang. But "updated list of executives NRPK" in which Hun Sen took the third position, Say Phouthang moved into fourth position.

The party held its Fifth Party Congress from October 13 to 16, 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. It pointed out "some weaknesses" that had to be overcome, however. 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. (He was apparently alluding to the continued Cambodian sensitivity to the presence of Vietnamese troops and of about 60,000 Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia. CGDK sources maintained that there were really about 700,000 Vietnamese settlers in the country.)

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 October 16, 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 - 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, 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.

Members of the Politburo (1990): 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: Sing Song, Sim Ka, Pol Saroeun.

Members of the Secretariat (1990): Heng Samrin, Say Phouthang, Bou Thang, Men Sam An, Sar Kheng

Modern incarnation (1991–present)[edit]

A slogan of Cambodian People's Party in Siem Reap, Cambodia

In 1991 the party was renamed Cambodian People's Party (CPP) during a UN-sponsored peace and reconciliation process. Politburo and the Secretariat to enter into the new Standing Committee, Chea Sim - No. 1 member, Hun Sen - No. 2 member. However 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. These reminders of its KPRP origins have led to opposition parties to continue labelling the CPP as Communist on several occasions.[10]

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 PRK in power (1979–1993)[edit]

Party leaders[edit]

Name From Until
Pen Sovan 5 January 1979 5 December 1981
Heng Samrin 5 December 1981 17 October 1991
Chea Sim 17 October 1991 8 June 2015
Hun Sen 20 June 2015 Present

Regional strength[edit]

     Minority      Majority

Provinces won by the CPP shown in light blue
No. Constituency Seats won Popular vote Percentage
1 Banteay Meanchey
4 / 6
148,593 58.15%
2 Battambang
5 / 8
223,733 52.44%
3 Kampong Cham
8 / 18
376,182 41.99%
4 Kampong Chhnang
2 / 4
123,341 50.38%
5 Kampong Speu
3 / 6
180,099 45.22%
6 Kampong Thom
3 / 6
128,799 44.97%
7 Kampot
3 / 6
147,265 48.93%
8 Kandal
5 / 11
261,857 39.85%
9 Kep
1 / 1
14,299 71.56%
10 Koh Kong
1 / 1
28,632 65.29%
11 Kratié
2 / 3
71,052 49.54%
12 Mondulkiri
1 / 1
17,380 71.67%
13 Oddar Meanchey
1 / 1
47,851 58.73%
14 Pailin
1 / 1
16,536 60.11%
15 Phnom Penh
5 / 12
257,351 38.77%
16 Preah Vihear
1 / 1
53,935 65.00%
17 Prey Veng
5 / 11
251,689 43.69%
18 Pursat
3 / 4
142,145 70.41%
19 Ratanakiri
1 / 1
39,630 73.94%
20 Siem Reap
4 / 6
193,093 48.82%
21 Sihanoukville
1 / 1
50,110 57.31%
22 Stung Treng
1 / 1
34,032 73.04%
23 Svay Rieng
3 / 5
183,258 60.80%
24 Takéo
4 / 8
245,387 47.41%
68 / 123
3,235,969 48.83%


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):

General election results[edit]

Election Total seats won Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election Election leader
51 / 120
1,533,471 38.2% Increase 51 seats Government Hun Sen
64 / 122
2,030,790 41.4% Increase 13 seats Government Hun Sen
73 / 123
2,447,259 47.3% Increase 9 seats Government Hun Sen
90 / 123
3,492,374 58.1% Increase 17 seats Government Hun Sen
68 / 123
3,235,969 48.8% Decrease 22 seats Government Hun Sen

Senate election results[edit]

Election Total seats won Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election Election leader
45 / 57
7,854 69.2% Increase 14 seats Chea Sim
46 / 57
8,880 77.8% Increase 1 seat Chea Sim

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diamond, Larry (April 2002). "Elections Without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes" (PDF). Journal of Democracy. 13 (2): 31, 32. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Hughes, Caroline (January–February 2009). "Consolidation in the Midst of Crisis" (PDF). Asian Survey. 49 (1): 211–212. ISSN 1533-838X. doi:10.1525/as.2009.49.1.206. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Cambodia
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Guo (2006), p. 69
  7. ^ Cambodia, Appendix B – Major Political and Military Organizations
  8. ^ Kate Frieson, In the Shadows: Women, Power and Politics in Cambodia
  9. ^ Frings, K. Viviane, Rewriting Cambodian History to 'Adapt' It to a New Political Context: The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party's Historiography (1979–1991) in Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 4. (Oct., 1997), pp. 807–846.
  10. ^ ALEX WILLEMYNS AND MECH DARA (29 June 2015). "CPP Celebrates 64 Years Since Communist Birth". The Cambodia Daily. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 


External links[edit]