45:19 | News and current affairs

Four Corners

Champagne with Dictators  |  ABC

For more than three decades Cambodia has been ruled by one man, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who came to power in the country's first democratic elections after the horror years of the Khmer Rouge. Australia played a key role in the peace deal that ended the bloody civil war, but the once bright hopes for democracy have long since faded. Ahead of this weekend's elections, the Hun Sen regime launched a ruthless crackdown on the political opposition and free press. On Monday, in her first story for Four Corners, reporter Sophie McNeill travels to Cambodia to confront the man whose political opponents have been imprisoned and assassinated in mysterious circumstances. While steadily cementing their grip on power, Hun Sen and his family and cronies are accused of amassing enormous wealth through a corrupt and nepotistic system. Four Corners has uncovered evidence of how the regime's wealth has been used to buy properties and businesses in Australia, where some of Hun Sen's relatives have established a base for building support, sometimes through threats and intimidation. Since 2014, Australia has granted the regime $40 million in additional aid, in return for taking some of Australia's unwanted refugees, and the Turnbull Government upgraded ties with Cambodia last year. While the US has begun moves to sanction the regime by freezing assets and blocking visas, international observers accuse the Australian Government of cosying up to Hun Sen. While hopes for democracy have disintegrated, China has moved to dramatically expand its presence and power in the country. As Hun Sen prepares to tighten his grip on power after this weekend's elections, Cambodia's democracy campaigners say they feel abandoned.

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