The National Assembly is poised to lift Sam Rainsy’s immunity so that the local government in Svay Rieng can subpoena him in connection with the removal of border markers.
In most but the most-ardent SR supporting circles, Sam Rainsy’s actions were seen as foolish and inappropriate for an elected MP. Sam Rainsy appears as though he is out to rattle Hun Sen’s chain whenever and wherever he can. What also riled Hun Sen obviously very much were Sam Rainsy’s remarks in Bangkok when he spoke at the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Hun Sen made that clear in his various statements about the Thaksin issue. Equally clear to most observers is the fact that this is an issue of head-butting between the two, never mind that Sam Rainsy said he wanted to draw attention to the Eastern border and help local villagers. Hun Sen wants to show Sam Rainsy and others like him that there is no way they can accomplish anything by working against him and his government. Hun Sen’s feelings were expressed in his recent interview he gave in Tokyo regarding the Thaksin spat. He said this is between Abhisit and him, not between the countries. The same applies to the Sam Rainsy issue. This is not about political differences, this is about Sam Rainy’s hardheaded, intransigent approach to opposition politics versus Hun Sen’s idea of how to run the country and his severe dislike of Sam Rainsy - and Mu Sochua by the same token – returned overseas Khmer who led a comfortable life while the rest suffered through hardship. Just as Sam Rainsy uses every opportunity to show up the government and its failures, Hun Sen will use every opportunity to show Sam Rainsy who is the boss. And he will use the instruments of power given to him by his landslide victory in the last election.
Nevertheless, in this instance just as in the Mu Sochua case one must wonder whether the steps taken to make their point are appropriate too. Just as it would probably have been wiser to just let matters rest with Ms. Sochua, it would appear to be prudent policy to just give Sam Rainsy a slap on the wrist. Seeing this from a foreigner’s perspective, there must be other instruments available than lifting an opponent’s parliamentarian immunity to discipline him for inappropriate, possibly minor illegal, actions. Censure or simple reprimand comes to mind. The Vietnamese government could probably be mollified by an official apology, notwithstanding the fact that the border markers were possibly unofficial. But just as Sam Rainsy is pretty hardheaded so is Hun Sen. And there is no question who is going to be the loser. The Prime Minister is not just content to sideline Sam Rainsy as others more even-tempered heads of government would do, he must teach him a lesson. Sam Rainsy probably reckons the world will in the end step in to rein in Hun Sen if he indeed were arrested and possibly sent to jail. But history should have taught him that this is unrealistic. As much as Western governments pay lip service to human rights and democratic opposition politics, they consider this a country’s internal affairs and consequently will not meddle in Cambodia’s affairs.