Friday, May 30, 2008

Cambodia’s Image and the Western World’s Perceptions and Expectations

It has been a while since I last posted a commentary here. Sometimes people have to earn a living and don’t have the time to engage in their field of interests. This will also be my last article for a long time as I will be busy with a different project, unless my two co-authors on this blog contribute something in the meantime.

Besides, not a whole lot has happened – just the normal fare. The Sam Rainsy Party is still losing members. The overseas Khmer still keep slamming Hun Sen and his government. Various NGOs still publish their mostly negative findings about Cambodia. But in Cambodia itself the people go about their lives as usual. They don’t seem to care what everybody else is saying, least of all the pundits who don’t live in Cambodia, the NGOs who are seen to line their pockets with donor countries’ money, and the various self-proclaimed experts who publish blogs and lecture everybody who will or won’t listen what the government should do to better life in Cambodia.

Time and again this writer has voiced his opinion that the development of one of the most backward nations on earth will take a long time. Cambodia came out of the Age of Darkness in 1992 and started developing seriously in 1998. The time in between was lost to internecine fighting within the government. Both coalition partners wanted to claim sole power for themselves. Naturally, only one came up the winner.

In this context two recent publications stand out as they seem to run counter to the conventional perception of Cambodia. One was the Global Peace Index (GPI) put out by the Vision for Humanity, Australia, and the other one was a poll taken by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Cambodia about voting preferences and whether the country is moving in the right direction.

Astonishingly enough, Cambodia is ranked 91 on the GPI of 140, Vietnam is 37, Thailand is 118, Laos is 51, Singapore is 29, Malaysia is 38, Burma is 126, and the United States is a mere 97. All the rankings can be found here

The GPI is a very complex index and the mere rankings can be misleading. At first glance the U.S. appears to be at rank 97 because of its ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, its threat of force against Iran, and other so-called rogue nations. In order to understand it completely one must look at the methodology.

The most peaceful countries are in dark blue, the least peaceful in red.

Nevertheless, some people were disputing the validity of Cambodia’s ranking alongside the U. S. out of hand. This couldn’t possibly be. Never mind, that Cambodia is enjoying peace it hasn’t known for a long time. Never mind, that people can travel everywhere without risk of guerilla warfare. The country is at peace with its neighbors, whether by accommodation or not. The fact in itself counts. Never mind, that people can pretty much do what they like. Pundits blast the GPI for being slanted and unscientific (who has the qualification to judge?). Never mind that the most renowned peace researchers of the world who compiled this study are members of the organization.

So far overlooked has also been the so-called Happiness Index put out by the New Economic Foundation.

Dark green = very good, light green = good, yellow = medium, orange = poor, red = very poor

Cambodia ranks 91 on this index, Vietnam 12, Thailand 32, Laos 109, Singapore 131, Myanmar 77, the United States 150 out of 178.

This foundation used three criteria in its assessment: life satisfaction, life expectancy, and the ecological footprint. For further details of how this index is calculated please visit their website. It would lead to far to go into detail here.

What is noteworthy, though, is the fact that Cambodia’s index is poor alongside Western Europe’s and Canada’s, and still better than the U. S’s. It appears as if the rat race in the industrialized world makes people rather unhappy, while people in a Communist country like Vietnam are happier, where practically all decisions are made for the people by the government, and where they don’t have this kind of rat race driven by avaricious consumption.

Now, looking at these two indices life in Cambodia, though not entirely bliss, can’t be that bad, or can it?

The IRI conducted a poll of 2000 eligible voters in February this year and found that 77% of those interviewed said the country is moving in the right direction, with 20% saying it’s moving in the wrong direction.

They also found that 55% would vote for the governing CPP in the coming July elections with 25% undecided.

This prompted the Prime Minister to glee saying again and again that this proves they are doing a good job, and that the opposition had better not doubt any election outcome, as they had indicated. The opposition rejected this poll outright, arguing it was flawed, probably they asked the wrong cross-section of people, maybe even people selected by the CPP, etc. Nothing new there – it just again goes to show that the opposition is rather hapless when it comes to real politics. They don’t see that people vote with their stomachs and not with their minds.

This quote from a blog about Cambodia called ‘Details are Sketchy’ sums it up pretty succinctly.

Here’s something the current crop of opposition parties don’t seem to understand: people don’t vote on the issues, they vote with their guts. When rural people look at Hun Sen they see somebody just like them, a simple, hard-working farm boy. When they look at Sam Rainsy, they see the urban-elite stereotype personified: raised in France, speaks French, and looks like he’s never known a minute of hard work in his life. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter one bit. That’s the perception. City people might like Sam Rainsy, but rural people will never identify with him, not in a million years.

It is the opposition as well as their supporters both inside and outside Cambodia who paint the bleakest picture of the country sending an image to the world at large that in no way reflects reality for the average Joe, or should I say Sophal, in the country itself.

We do know what’s wrong with the country and its government. We do know corruption is rampant, 35% percent live below the poverty level, the judicial system is controlled by the ruling party, the educational system is largely dysfunctional, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer (or are they?), there is no public health system, the economy is based on two or three key industries, a very unhealthy basis for future growth and development. We do know there is land grabbing and forced evictions. We do know as we are reminded on a daily basis by all those NGOs who make a living pointing out those inequities and the disparity with what should be and what is.

But if you compare the country to 1988 (the first time I set foot in it) and 2008, this is like night and day, like the Dark Ages and the onset of the Modern Age. This belies what the opposition and their supporters are claiming day in day out. Of course, they are encouraged by the many critical articles in newspapers and magazines written by journalists who do a good job pointing out societies’ ills but don’t have a clue of how to cure them. They are encouraged by human rights organizations whose job it is to reveal the truths about abuses and violations of basic rights. And, yes, we do need those reminders and critical articles.

This writer does not support the current government and its policies, but he does see what reality is like for normal people in Cambodia. There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind that life is better for more people than ever before. Progress is slow, but there is progress. This brings me to the dominating thought for this article. Why do people with a Western background want to impose on other countries their set of values and their philosophies, neglecting the different cultures, traditions, ways of thinking, and expectations of life? After all, the West took almost 300 years to develop a kind of system that allows people to flourish and fail of their own free will, giving them all the freedoms we all so cherish, but also abusing those freedoms on occasion when it fits the purpose.

The first modern democracy passed a constitution that laid down the written groundwork after which all subsequent democracies are patterned, albeit with variations. But we also know that even after 232 years this democracy is flawed, the society it produced is far from free, civil rights are still being abused, voting rights are impaired for minorities, women are not treated equally, the judicial system is far from perfect, and happiness and well-being are terms widely and frequently used by politicians, but the stark reality is a far cry from this.

This country is held out as the shining example of what other countries ought to strive for. It is perennially depicted as the richest, the freest, and the most powerful country on the face of the earth (as politicians of all stripes and colors are wont to say). But this is also the country that

· annihilated the native Americans to a mere shadow of their former existence
· imported slaves from Africa to work their plantations
· exploited immigrants as a cheap labor force upon which its wealth is built and continues to be built
· did not abolish slavery until 1876
· was in large part lawless well into the early 20th century
· did not grant their women voting rights until 1920
· did not grant native Americans voting rights until 1924
· did not pass the Civil Rights act until 1957
· did not pass the Voting Rights act until 1964
· did not abolish segregation until 1968
· that bombed an officially neutral country and killed its innocent people
· conducted a war with chemicals and napalm that cost Vietnam 2 million lives.
· had a President who was driven from office for criminal acts committed for his re-election
· sends innocent people to prison and even executes some of them due to a flawed judicial system based on the Anglo-Saxon jury system and common law (with grandstanding district attorneys wanting to win at all costs)
· continues to profile people of non-Caucasian descent, especially African-Americans
· has 15% of the population living below the poverty level
· has 45 millions that cannot afford basic health insurance
· has 6% of the population controlling 85% of the wealth
· has wide-spread corruption reaching into the highest circles of government (governors, senators, congressman convicted of corruption are found in the prison population - $360 million was sidelined by New York City officials)
· had a President who was hounded by his opponents for his liberal policies and was impeached for sexual dalliances with obstruction of justice as a legal pretense.
· has a President who deceived his country and the world and led the country to an unjustified war
· has a President who signed laws severely limiting civil rights
· has an Administration that eavesdrops on innocent and harmless people’s lives
· calls itself Christian but conducts wars almost every decade of its history. Lest one forgets the Fifth Commandment says ‘Though Shalt Not Kill’.
· calls itself Christian but continues to execute people
· lets people perish after natural catastrophies due to sheer ineptitude
and so on, and so on.

But this is 2008. And mind you, this is the role model country for democracy and human rights, at least in their own view. And this is the country where democracy was formally established in 1776 with a model constitution passed in 1778.

Now, I am asking, ‘Why aren’t people willing to give Cambodia some more time to find its way into the future – a future that will eventually make all Cambodians more prosperous and happy with their lives in their native country? Why must Cambodia achieve the things in 10 or 20 years when other countries have taken ten times as long only to achieve imperfection?

We can see that this is not an easy road; it is full of rocks and potholes. So bringing people together, even you adversaries, will accomplish more and bring about the necessary change. Only this will pave the road to true well-being.

This is why I say to all those people blasting each and every one holding a different opinion: ‘Shut up, get off your butt and get to work!’

Jay Rupert
Cambodia, May 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Hor Nam Hong Case

In political circles this case has become front and center again as Sam Rainsy had made remarks repeating accusations the former King Sihanouk had made in 1990 in France. Those remarks are now the subject of libel lawsuit brought by Hor Nam Hong against Sam Rainsy.

Many of Sam Rainsy’s supporters simply repeat his words without knowing too much about the context or the history, for that matter; many of those supporters are just young hotspurs that were born well after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and in many instances are only superficially familiar with that tragic part of Cambodia’s history. The general belief is that someone who was in some official capacity during the Khmer Rouge government must have bloody hands. Older contemporaries that were victims or prisoners in the camp, steadfastly maintain that Hor Nam Hong was there in an official capacity and was responsible for the death of thousands of prisoners. Concrete evidence to Hor Nam Hong’s complicity in or outright responsibility for the death of prisoners has so far not been presented by anyone. As opposed to the Nazi concentration camps in Germany, where the Germans kept detailed records of their atrocities, not enough documents survived to make a solid case.

In early 2001 the Phnom Penh Post published an article with an interview with a survivor of the Boeng Trabek camp. The words spoken by Keo Bunthouk, a respected Senator at that time, need to be analyzed thoroughly in a legal context in order to find out whether or not his testimony is incriminating Hor Nam Hong in such a way as to clearly make the case of his culpability. In a court of law there are material witnesses, material evidence, and circumstantial evidence. The aggregate of this, presented to the judge and/or a jury, will form the basis on which they can reach a decision or verdict on the matter. The question is whether Keo Bunthouk’s words stand up to the test for convincing evidence. Short of reading the transcripts of the lawsuit in France, it must be assumed that his testimony at that time was basically identical to his words in the interview.

This is an excerpt of the article and the interview with annotations in blue by the writer:


The Senate debate's most moving and controversial moments came when septuagenarian Funcinpec Senator Keo Bunthouk, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge's Boeng Trabek "re-education camp", reiterated Foreign Minister Hor Namhong's involvement in the camp's administration.

Phelim Kyne and Vong Sokheng spoke to Senator Bunthouk about life and death in Boeng Trabek.

In early 1976, Keo Bunthouk followed her husband, Paris-based Cambodian UNESCO delegate Ieng Kounsaky, in answering the invitation of leaders of the Khmer Rouge's Democratic Kampuchea to return to Cambodia to assist in the country's rebuilding.Instead, Bunthouk, her husband and fellow members of GRUNK, the France-based Royalist anti-Lon Nol opposition front, found themselves confined in the Phnom Penh "re-education camp" of Boeng Trabek.

Another newspaper account based on documents puts Hor Nam Hong in Boeng Trabek for the same reasons. He followed the KR regime’s invitation to help re-build the country but found himself in that same re-education camp.

Established in early 1976 to "re-educate" government officials of the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes, Boeng Trabek was divided into a youth section of approximately 150 people and a section in which approximately 50 returned diplomats and former government officials were confined. At least twenty of Boeng Trabek's inmates died of overwork or after being transferred to the nearby Toul Sleng torture center.

In 1991, Bunthouk was the only one of three witnesses who testified in a Paris court on behalf of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk in a civil suit filed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. The suit was in response to the King's assertions in an interview that Hor Namhong had "...commanded a Khmer Rouge concentration camp ... [and was] responsible for the death and torture of many former members of the anti-American resistance, notably Prince Sisowath Metheavi."

The case was decided in favor of Hor Namhong.

Q: What do you remember of your return to Cambodia in 1976?

A: It was very sad...we arrived at the airport and the people who knew us didn't dare say hello.They were all dressed in black and didn't say anything. [The Khmer Rouge] made us work. We stayed two weeks in Phnom Penh and then they sent us to Battambang. We worked there for five or six months in the fields, then they brought me join my husband in Phnom Penh. We worked very hard...certain diplomats were with us including Hor Namhong..."

Q: What was life like at Boeng Trabek?

A: We worked hard and didn't eat well. We were there with the Princess [Nanette Metheavi, sister of Queen Monineath] and others. There were daily sessions of criticism and self criticism.

Q: Were you aware of the deaths and disappearances of people at Boeng Trabek?

A: We didn't know the people who were taken away were killed. I thought maybe they were taken to another camp. Only after 1981 [did I learn that] people taken from the camp were taken to Toul Sleng and lived only about one month. I didn't know they went to their deaths. I thought they maybe went to a more difficult camp because I noticed [those taken away] had committed minor faults. I don't understand [their deaths]...if it was people who had done grave faults I could understand, but it wasn't, it was people who'd just done minor things...that's what preoccupies me, that's why I think in all this country [during the KR regime] people were killed for nothing. I think a lot about this because I pity the people who were killed [who] used to live and work with me. I know that they did not commit any mistake, so why did they take them all to kill them...why were children killed as well?"

Q: What do you remember about Hor Namhong's role at Boeng Trabek?

A: He was with us...Hor Namhong was the Director...he made his wife director of women [prisoners] and his son chief of youth [prisoners]. Hor Namhong criticized people [at the daily criticism/self-criticism sessions], but we could also criticize him. I once criticized him for making his wife chief of women and his son chief of youth. The whole family went to Angka Leu (met with KR party leaders) and the rest of the camp didn't know [anything]. I realized we didn't know whom he talked to, who Angka Leu (the KR leaders who Hor Namhong met) was. I have never found out who Angka Leu was...I imagine it might have been Son Sen or Ieng Sary [but] I don't know.

Q: Who should be held responsible for the murders of Boeng Trabek inmates?

A: Now you repeat this question and maybe Hor Namhong will want to assassinate me, what will happen to me? I've heard that Hor Namhong wants to sue...the newspaper that said he was Khmer Rouge. For me, I don't know whether Hor Namhong was Khmer Rouge or not. I don't know if he chose people [sent to] Toul Sleng, but I noticed that when there was even minor criticism of someone [by Hor Namhong], two days after this person [was taken away] and we didn't know where he went. Hor Namhong says that it was not him [who ordered inmates taken to Toul Sleng], but how could it be? Who could have taken all those people to be killed? He was director of the camp...why did [the Khmer Rouge] take [Boeng Trabek inmates] awav to be killed?

Q: What was your involvement in the 1991 civil suit initiated by Hor Namhong against King Sihanouk?

A: I was a witness for King Sihanouk when he said in the [Paris] newspaper that Hor Namhong was an assassin. Hor Namhong brought two communist lawyers [to the court] ... the King didn't have a lawyer so the court appointed a lawyer for the King who knew nothing of the King or Boeng Trabek ... he just listened. The other witnesses [Princess Sisowath Ayravady and Sao Kim Hong] didn't dare show up. The King lost the case because we were called in last [to give testimony]. Hor Namhong brought in false witnesses...those who were not in the camp or people who came ...when things were okay and everybody ate well [in the last four months before the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime]. [Those] other witnesses, if they accused me of not having proved [the King's case], they should bring in the children of the victims [to testify].

Q: Do you believe the KR Tribunal law will be able to deliver real justice?

A: This is a good law to find out who killed people. [Former Khmer Rouge leaders] have to come and tell us what happened, why it happened. We all want to know why they took people to be killed. I expect that the trial will be good if it has good international judges [and because] the international community is watching us. If the court asks me to testify I will go as I did for the King's case, but there will be a question whether I have any proof. But there are children whose parents died in the camp who may know more details than me.

End quote

Apart from not having presented any new and concrete evidence of his own, some of the things Sam Rainsy has said in the past don’t match with that testimony, especially that he, Sam Rainsy, helped find King Sihanouk an attorney. The witness said King Sihanouk did not have an attorney but was appointed one by the court.

In light of Sihanouk’s initial role as head of state of the DK and his alliance with the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese invasion, his accusations are somewhat dubious to begin with. One would think Sihanouk should be the last one to point a finger at anybody involved with the Khmer Rouge in one form or another, as he himself was for many years opportunistically in league with a fundamentally criminal organization that had brought endless misery to the country and its people. But for Sihanouk the end justified the means, even if it involved going to bed with murderers.

It can only be construed that he made those accusations for the benefit of the Western powers during the Paris peace talks. This vainglorious little man wanted to distance himself from his own role contributing to the mass killings and mutilations that occurred after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge as a result of the millions of mines planted by them. He wanted to appear as the champion of a free and democratic Cambodia, as the savior of the country he regarded as his personal possession. Never mind that he was beholden to Chinese and North Korean dictators and received considerable financial support from them. He wanted the world to believe that he had no responsibility for whatever happened to his country.

As for Keo Bunthouk’s testimony, one must say that it is very weak at best. It contained no hard evidence but merely assumptions. This is not to undermine or question his credibility or integrity, but a material witness must have seen things happen and must identify persons or things so as to count as concrete evidence.

Keo Bunthouk’s did not see Hor Nam Hong select people to be sent to Tuol Sleng, nor did he hear him order it. Keo Bunthouk could criticize Hor Nam Hong himself. If only minor criticism resulted in people disappearing why wasn’t he sent to Tuol Sleng?

He called Hor Nam Hong the ‘director’ of the camp. Maybe the Khmer word ‘chawai’ is just translated wrong. It could mean ‘chief’, ‘boss’, ‘manager’ – all very ambiguous terms in the context.

It is known that Hor Nam Hong was the ‘chief’ or ‘head’ of prisoners but does that involve any authority? We don’t know. We can’t say for certain that he had authority to send people to Tuol Sleng nor can we say that he didn’t. There is simply no unearthed evidence that would prove Hor Nam Hong’s involvement in a responsible role of authority, culpability, or guilt.

The French court hearing this case must have come to the same conclusion. There was only one witness who gave unsubstantial testimony; the other two didn’t show up. Obviously no other evidence was presented, which led to no other conclusion but to find for the plaintiff. This is the way courts work. Sometimes, lawsuits are not about who is right and about justice but who has better, more credible and substantive evidence. The lack of evidence does not determine innocence in and of itself, but it certainly means that a defendant is not guilty in the eye of the law. Since we clamor so much about the rule of law, this is it. We must abide by it, whether or not we like the outcome.

Until such time as concrete evidence is presented, the axiom ‘in dubio pro reo’ must apply. Sam Rainsy had better come up with something real fast or he might look at another form of Cambodian hospitality.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

He Sure Knows How to Put His Foot in It – or What Was He Thinking?

Three months before the election another stumbling block looms on the horizon for Sam Rainsy. The Foreign Minister sued Sam Rainsy for slander in municipal court in Phnom Penh for his remarks Sam Rainsy made on the occasion of the commemoration the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in 1975.

He said at least two ministers in the current government were cadres of the Khmer Rouge regime.“One of them was a secretary and interpreter for Pol Pot and who is senior minister and Minister of Economy and another is the current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs who was the director of Beoung Trabek prison,” Sam Rainsy said. “The director of a prison can point to someone and this person would disappear.”

Keat Chhon is the Minister for Finance and the Economy, and Hor Namhong is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Hor Namhong denied the charges maintaining he was never part of the Khmer Rouge. He did not elaborate what his exact role during those years was. It appears to be indisputable that he was the ‘head of prisoners’ at the Beoung Trabek prison. Usually, the ‘head’ or ‘chief’ or ‘spokesman’ for prisoners acts as liaison between the prisoners and the warden and the guards. Whether Hor Namhong’s function extended beyond that has not been proved.

The former King Sihanouk had made those same allegations naming exactly those persons in 1990, upon which Hor Namhong sued the former king there. He prevailed over the former king, as the court did not find any substance to those allegations. Sihanouk would have had the right to appeal that decision but waived it on the grounds that it might derail the peace process for Cambodia under way in France at that time. Naturally, it was entirely possible that the former king did not have more evidence to make his case. Appeals are meant to review lower court decisions for procedural errors, wrong assessment of presented evidence, or if new evidence is presented that had theretofore not been known.

An attempt at a clarification of the role of those two government officials was made by The Cambodia Daily, a respected newspaper founded by Bernhard Krisher, the former Newsweek correspondent in SE Asia during the Vietnam War era. This article can be accessed here:

Though it sheds some light on that aspect of the Cambodian history the reporters were unable to produce any concrete evidence as to any executive involvement of those two ministers.

As a result of Sam Rainsy’s remarks Hor Namhong filed a civil lawsuit for slander against Sam Rainsy.

Sam Rainsy maintains his remarks claiming that he was only repeating the former king’s words. He also called for the ECCC to take up this case as this issue dates back to the Pol Pot era, which the ECCC is charged with adjudicating.

Sam Rainsy also says he had not mentioned Hor Namhong by name, nor accused him of killing anyone. But his remarks are anything but ambiguous. He clearly accused both men of being Pol Pot henchmen.

In the run-up to the elections in a verifiably heated political climate these remarks are not only gaffes but blunders of the worst kind any politician in his right mind can make. After all, a truly independent court in France had dealt with the matter before. If Sam Rainsy had been a novice on the political scene in Cambodia one might have understood his words and subsequent attempted explanations. But given that he has been a longtime member of Cambodia’s political nomenclature this can only be viewed as amateurish pandering to the older part of the Khmer population and an attempt at enhancing his stature among Western countries. He himself had once before been the target of a defamation lawsuit brought by the Prime Minister, of which he was found guilty and sentenced to prison, which he only escaped by going into exile. A pardon by the King enabled his return to Cambodia’s political life.

Hor Namhong made it public that he would withdraw his lawsuit if Sam Rainsy apologizes to him. This he steadfastly refuses to do, thereby risking his chances of even participating in the election, for if the court decides against him, he might go to prison for up to three years - not a bright prospect for an opposition politician in an election campaign.

Whether both parties to the lawsuit are politically motivated by all this is a question only these two can truthfully answer. Everybody else can only speculate on it – it might be a mixture of both a political and personal nature; the ingredients are all there: hurt personal feelings, vague historical facts, previous court decisions, an election campaign, and efforts to enhance one’s public profile.

Sam Rainsy’s call for the ECCC is a lame diversionary tactic, as he well knows. The ECCC was instituted to try people who committed crimes against humanity during the Pol Pot era. If Hor Nam Hong and Keat Chhun were guilty of those crimes then the ECCC would have jurisdiction. At this time those two people have not been named in any indictment nor has the ECCC indicated that both men will be called before the ECCC.

Promptly, Reach Sambath, the ECCC spokesman, said that Hor Namhong’s lawsuit against Sam Rainsy is not under the jurisdiction of the KRT (Khmer Rouge Tribunal). He explained that the ECCC has a clearly defined power to judge 2 groups of people only: the top leaders and the top persons responsible under the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) regime for the crimes, which took place between 1975-1979. He added: “Other lawsuits, such as defamation lawsuits or spreading disinformation are not under the jurisdiction of the KRT.” He added that all of us, small or big, including politicians, should let the ECCC operate under the agreement between the government and the UN according to the National Assembly’s approval. We should not tell the ECCC to do this or that.”

Since Sam Rainsy saw fit to repeat Sihanouk's words he subjected himself to the same repercussions that Sihanouk faced, namely a lawsuit. Since this is Cambodia only a Cambodian court has jurisdiction. Cambodian law applies when a plaintiff files a complaint in that venue, no matter whether anybody believes that court to be partial.

And it doesn’t matter whether anybody believes these two people were indeed members of the Khmer Rouge top ranks and committed crimes against humanity. What matters is that any allegation must be substantiated with evidence; hearsay, innuendo, and rumors have no standing in court. The rule of law cuts both ways. People calling for the rule of law cannot be selective in its application.

The argument that Sihanouk would have won the appeal is worth nothing; it is purely hypothetical. Appeals are tricky and only a naïve person can believe those are won easily. His contention that the former king should go to court with him is outright ludicrous. What the king said in 1990 was repudiated by court decision. The former king has no reason to involve himself in events that would undermine his own perception as the father of the new Cambodia. Even though his record during the Pol Pot time is anything but spotless and even his present stature is very controversial, the former king will not speak against the current government, which he praises exuberantly on many occasions.

If Sam Rainsy is taking this chance deliberately, thinking that a verdict against him would make him a martyr, then he is a greater fool than many hold he is. He is running the risk of being incarcerated at the time of the election and his political future is at stake.

The CPP has not shown any inclination in the past to back down from such confrontations. Speculating that it might reflect negatively on the CPP in the elections might prove erroneous; quite the opposite might happen: the population will recognize that there is only one source of power in this country.

Sam Rainsy is in hot waters again because he can't keep his mouth shut when he knows full well that some things need to be treated and words need to be weighed very carefully. He has shown this tendency to run off at the mouth without presenting any evidence in the past. It led to his exile. It might just happen again. Because of his confrontational attitude and unsubstantiated allegations he is treading on very thin ice.