Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recent News

Ms. Mu Sochua, the prominent female SRP deputy, the other day filed a lawsuit against the Prime Minister for defamation of her. The neutral observer is wondering why Ms. Sochua is resorting to a legal tactic usually employed by the government. After all, in the past only the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister used this instrument. I didn’t hear the words spoken in Khmer so I have to rely on the various translations that appeared in the press. According to one source, this revolves around a speech the Prime Minister made in Kampot, Ms. Sochua’s district. He referred to a lady in the province as a ‘provocateur’. ‘She tripped on someone but she accused him of unbuttoning her blouse.’ Ms. Sochua claims she had an altercation with a CPP member over a photograph she was taking of an RCAF vehicle in the election campaign, which is against election regulations. In the course of the brief scuffle, a button of her blouse came off.

The Prime Minister didn’t name her directly but the context probably left no doubt whom he was referring to. Ms. Sochua took offense at that and now brought a lawsuit seeking a symbolic amount as restitution for her blemished honor. Defamation is very broadly defined as making false allegations against a public figure.

The question now is, ‘Did the Prime Minister indeed insult or slander her, that’s what I would call an attack on my personal honor, or was he just describing an event in a snide fashion?’ Assuming he indeed meant her, one could also interpret his remarks as calling her a liar. Now that would be an insult and probably fall into the defamation category – she is a very public figure in Cambodia. But one must question whether this is an ideal case to make a point, which Ms. Sochua is clearly trying to do, or whether this is a rather futile effort in showing the world how justice is dispensed in Cambodia. Observers of the situation in Cambodia know how this is done anyway. There would certainly be better cases to highlight some not so palatable characteristics of the Cambodian judicial system. One would have wished she had chosen another avenue to raise her public image. Come to think of it, the SRP politicians didn’t mince any words either when they called the government a bunch of thieves. Politics is a rough business and one needs to be somewhat thick-skinned to survive.

In other news, the lately somewhat silent SRP-leader Sam Rainsy was reported as once again calling on the government to implement certain policies to alleviate the economic crisis in Cambodia. He was interviewed on the Khmer version of the Voice of America. He repeated his three points, which are

1. Allocate $500 million (sic) in a special package to increase expenditures on social programs that help the poor, bolster the health and education systems and prepare new investment sites to create jobs, he said.

2. The National Bank should decrease interest rates, to avoid confiscation of land and homes of people who may be struggling under debt, while at the same time promoting more loans as people cope with the downturn.

3. The government should seek to decrease the prices of electricity and fuel, along with the price of tolls and other services.

First, one must wonder why the reporter didn’t ask the ‘former Finance Minister’ how he would pay for this. Clearly, Mr. Rainsy must know that you need to have revenues in order to pay for your expenditures. And clearly, he must know that Cambodia’s national budget is a mere $1.8 billion. Where and how would a government raise this additional money, which amounts to roughly one third of the entire budget?

That would really be interesting to find out from the SRP. If they came up with a constructive proposal, e. g. how to restructure the national budget, this would certainly enhance their credibility, and they wouldn’t have to resort to lawsuits to heighten their profile. This does not imply that the government’s tactics in that respect are any better or are even endorsed.

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