Maybe I am mistaken, but I get the impression as though NGOs in the field of protecting and advancing the principles and application of human rights active in Cambodia have singled out this country as an easy target. If you read the Thai press, for instance, there is not nearly as much coverage of human rights abuses as in Cambodia. Why is that, I am wondering? Malaysia? My goodness, Cambodia is heaven compared to Malaysia, at least judging from press reports. According to a Malaysian businessman, whom I had the chance to talk with recently and who knows all the SE Asian countries, as well as India, Cambodia is really not so bad.
When I say NGOs, I am excluding the UN High Commission, the Human Rights Watch, and Licadho, which I am sure all do good work and have the noblest of intentions, and they do their work worldwide. And to preempt any criticism from overseas Khmer supporting the SRP, I am also sure that the SRP and its two prominent leaders, Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, have the interest of the Cambodian people at heart and that their criticism and condemnations of the Cambodian government’s disregard of some human rights are heart-felt and genuine, as opposed to believing they do it for political expediency and are self-serving in the pursuit of financial contributions from overseas Khmer and organizations committed to helping further the cause of human rights. But on second thought, perhaps that also plays a role, or does it?
But on the other hand, the upcoming hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U. S. Congress on the situation in Cambodia and its political utilization by the SRP lead people to believe that the U. S. is indeed very much interested in Cambodia and attribute, in my view, undue significance to the U. S. as a shining beacon of the practice of human rights. In a recent letter to the editor of the Phnom Penh Post Mu Sochua held out the U. S. as a country to emulate in its policies. She is, after all, a U. S., citizen who in the course of her education both in school and as preparation for obtaining citizenship is indoctrinated in that belief.
If you take a closer look, however, you will find that the U. S. does not fare that well. On a list by the UK’s respected newspaper The Observer/The Guardian, the U. S. is ranked 86th, Cambodia 78th, in other words, the U. S. is only slightly ahead of Cambodia. The paper balanced the score of abuses with the human development index (HDI). Now, that list dates back to 1999, so it’s 10 years old and might be considered outdated. (I couln’t find a more recent ranking.) I agree. But the conclusion would also be that with the intervening Bush years in the U. S. and the undoubtedly improved situation in Cambodia, they would rank about the same, or would they?
We read about violations and abuses in Cambodia on a daily basis. I don’t need to repeat them here. But what about human rights abuses in the U. S. – that land of the free and the brave?
Just to list a few: the death penalty, executions of innocent people, discrimination against minorities, disenfranchisement of minorities - particularly African-Americans, racial profiling, renditions of people without court order or concrete evidence, torture of so-called enemy combatants, employing mercenary armies to carry out assassinations (Blackwater), the routine meddling in other nation’s affairs, helping overthrow inconvenient governments, supporting friendly dictatorships, tolerating human rights abuses in allied countries (Saudi Arabia), looking the other way in the face of genocide (Darfur, Ruanda), and so on, and so on. For a more detailed look got to Amnesty International’s website or the Human Rights Watch’s website. What you can read there will make you shudder.
And much can be said about the U. K., France, and Germany - all countries with a stellar reputation for human rights and the protection of the persecuted. Again, check these countries out on AI and HRW. It is outright disheartening.
Now, I am not excusing abuses elsewhere just because ‘enlightened’ and developed countries don’t have a handle on human rights either. What I am railing against is the hypocrisy with which opposition politicians, and Mu Sochua seems to have of late become their voice, and NGOs active in Cambodia hold out other countries as exemplary in their handling of democracy and human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Where is the outrage against the U. S. and others?
This makes a mockery of their fight for justice and human rights. This makes them nothing more than opportunists who ride the wave of sympathy for the poor, the downtrodden, and the persecuted. Ms. Sochua has become a celebrity in those circles for the simple reason that she chose to sue the Prime Minister and lost, which was to be expected from the beginning. She mounted that campaign on a flimsy pretense; for what - to gain freedom fighter status or become a martyr? One would think she could have chosen a more worthy cause. This is not a fight for freedom and human rights. This is a clash of two egos. I said it before, this is probably more than anything else an exercise in showing who is in charge to those returned overseas Khmer politicians, who didn’t go through the hard times in their home country but led a cushy life in safety and prosperity, and who now want to lecture the government on how things are to be run.
Where is the outrage by NGOs against corruption in the U. S., which is widespread? I would like to use a quote on corruption from one Axel Boldt, a math teacher at a college in the U.S.
“……policemen keeping confiscated drugs for themselves or demanding sex from prostitutes, guards smuggling drugs into prisons, a mayor taking kickback money, immigration officers issuing fake green cards and so on. …..
…..Large-scale corruption of the legal kind infects every level of U.S. society. In fact, the USA invented and perfected the system of effective legal corruption. Politicians receive their money from corporations. Government regulators get well-paid positions on corporate boards once they leave the government. Plea bargaining is the rule in criminal court. Drug companies help researchers write medical articles and lather doctors with gifts and trips. Bond rating agencies are paid by the bond issuers. The news media depend on advertising money.”
Give me a break.