Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Food Crisis and the SRP

Notwithstanding that the food crisis is a worldwide phenomenon caused by factors largely beyond the control of governments, the SRP wants to again stage a demonstration protesting the recent drastic increase in food prices, solely blaming the government for doing nothing about it, and its cronies for pocketing inordinate profits.

Major internationals newspapers as well as the Cambodian press, both in English and Khmer, have reported widely on the true causes of that crisis. See, www.voanews/,, just to name a few, so this blog will abstain from repeating them here again.

This crisis has led to demonstrations and riots in some countries where the poor can no longer afford to buy their main staple, mostly rice.

In continuation of its populist stance the SRP tries to take advantage of this crisis to foment unrest. Yes, demonstrations are legitimate, but they must be for a worthy cause. To exploit the fears of the masses for the party's and his own political gain is irresponsible and reprehensible. The SRP continues to claim this is the government’s entire fault and the result of unscrupulous businesspeople squeezing the poor people dry. Economists all over the world paint a different picture. But in spite of this, and it is hardly believable that the SRP officials don’t read the international press, they have embarked on a voyage of obstructionism, which may eventually even lead to riots – and this is something Cambodian most certainly doesn’t need.

Given the present incendiary rhetoric by Sam Rainsy and other party officials, one cannot but wonder about their motivation. Do they just strive to enhance their profile or do they really want to help the people? As mentioned many times previously, the SRP is long on words and condemnations but short on action and proposals of real solutions for the problems facing Cambodia. They have not introduced a single detailed program outlining concrete steps in the fight against inflation.

As the current Democratic presidential debates in the U. S. more than clearly show, politicians are fair game and their mistakes, faults, and blunders receive public airing ad nauseum, whether relevant or not. By the same token, the CPP is an easy target for its lack of progress on the social front, and its unwillingness to earnestly fight corruption. The passage of that long awaited anti-corruption law, still mired in committees, would be a step in the right direction and a welcome signal to the population at large, and the donor community in particular.

Contrary to what conservative readers of this blog maintain, this writer is not a supporter of the CPP. What is desirable, however, is a strong constructive opposition that puts forth genuine action plans and does not only engage in oftentimes unsubstantiated allegations and accusations. When some regional party official utilizes his position for his own gain, the SRP collectively condemns the CPP as a whole, and not only the one official. The business community is painted as the common enemy of the people, reminiscent of Communist times, when the then government denounced the private sector as bloodsuckers of the common people. The SRP, which wants to present itself as a morally superior party that only has the interest of the common people at heart, miserably fails in this respect. The international press makes hardly any mention of Sam Rainsy. In the international arena he is a virtual non-entity. His current trip to the U. S. more than clearly shows this. It does not appear that any meeting even with lower-ranked U. S. officials is planned. Of course, the largely anti-government Khmer conservative, backward-looking Diaspora supports him as their hero who they hope can bring about change. Why they want change remains somewhat of a mystery. Most of them are either U. S. or French citizens. They chose to leave their country and build new lives in their new home country. They apparently have no intention of ever returning to their birth country. Why do they keep meddling in Cambodia’s affairs? But they will soon find out that their financial support is a wasted effort. Sam Rainsy will never win an election.

But if indeed it came true, they would be in for a big surprise. He would plunge the country into chaos if he follows through with his general policy pronouncements. But then, it won’t happen and this is why Hun Sen likes Sam Rainsy so much for what he really is – a basically weak opposition leader that only lends credibility to Cambodia’s status as a democracy. Sam Rainsy cannot rally the masses; he is not a fervent orator who can motivate people. He is not an opponent to be taken seriously.

His biggest drawback is that he doesn’t have the support of the incipient middle class, let alone the upper class, which in any modern society, gets the president or prime minister elected. To counter their influence, the opposition leader must be a convincing public persona with charisma. And this is something Sam Rainsy most definitely is not. In other countries, opposition leaders went to prison for their convictions and beliefs. Sam Rainsy chose to spend one and a half years in comfortable exile. When he returned he had turned into a virtual puppy. Only lately has he begun to be more outspoken in his criticism. But this won’t be enough to turn the tide. Although it is too late now for the coming elections, the SRP ought to re-invent itself, starting with a new name and a new, more charismatic leader. Perhaps then they might have a chance of changing the course of this beautiful country. It would deserve it.

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