In view of Sam Rainsy’s recent self-imposed exile the question arises whether he can ever become the opposition leader in Cambodia again. It appears as though this time his opponents want him gone for good. He may appeal to the world opinion and hold press conferences all he wants, it won’t have much effect on the eventual outcome. Which also leads to the questions well-known government critic and eminent overseas Khmer commentator Dr. Tith raised in an open letter published on his website back in February 2010, and which I am quoting here in an edited version.
Is he an effective and capable leader?
The answer centers on whether Sam Rainsy can be an effective opposition leader against Hun Sen and his CPP and whether he has all the characteristics of a great leader such as those below-mentioned world leaders who led their people to freedom.
Sam Rainsy does not have the minimum of characteristics required of a national hero such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandel, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, or India’s Mahatma Gandhi to attract respect and support from the most influential, and respectable people and leaders in the world. This is the main question about Sam Rainsy as a leader. Therefore, will he be able to muster the all necessary support that is needed internally and externally, to carry the heavy burden that he assigned to himself?
Can he be compared to other well-known modern heroic leaders such as; Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Ghandi?
The answer is unfortunately, No. Because he lacks the moral and physical courage of those great leaders mentioned earlier. We do not wish him to be jailed by Hun Sen. But, some time, when a leader is engaged in challenging a “leader” like Hun Sen, there is almost a certainty that jailing is a very high possibility. All three great leaders mentioned earlier have spent an enormous amount of their useful years in jail; Mandela had spent 27 of his life in jail and solitary confinement, under the racist South African Aparthei regime; Mahatma Gandhi, more than nine years in British jail, and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi has been in house arrest for the last ten years. In addition, even great thinkers such as the Chinese philosopher and political moralist, Confucius and the French Playwright, history philosopher, and founder the Enlightenment Movement in Europe, did not hesitate to go to jail in the defense of their belief.
Will he be able to challenge Hun Sen?
The answer deriving from the factors contained in the previous questions, is No. Because, Hun Sen has the full support of Sihanouk; and Sam Rainsy is trapped by Sihanouk due to his family’s past complex – father - relationship with the former king.
One may not completely agree with this assessment, but it is hard to dispute considering his fleeing the country whenever he is in hot waters. It appears as if Sam Rainsy does not have the moral and physical courage to face the consequence of his actions. His jail sentence may be a miscarriage of justice, and the new lawsuit against him appears just as preposterous, but so were the lawsuits and ‘legal’ actions against those great leaders Dr. Tith mentions. Sam Rainsy has chosen exile over jail, like most people would, but perhaps going to jail, making him in effect a martyr, would be the one heroic act elevating him to true leadership status. That act, however, takes courage only few people possess.
All the more surprising was an announcement made by an SRP spokesperson that Sam Rainsy would return to Cambodia soon. That statement contradicts the ones Sam Rainsy made not long ago that he would not come back to go to prison; that he will fight from abroad.