Thursday, June 17, 2010


I want to reply to a comment Stefanie F posted on the previous entry with a full post.

You espouse a somewhat idealistic view. While I am not disputing what you wrote in general I believe one has to take a realistic view of things. I try to remain neutral and see things from a an outsider’s position, although my many detractors believe I am in the government’s pockets. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

First, the U. S.’s $60M is a trifle in view of other countries’ donations, especially compared with China, Japan, and even the EU, if you include the member countries’ contributions. After all, Cambodia just got $1.1 billion in aid and grants. So what’s the $60M? The U. S. is a country that propagates human rights but this is to be seen more as lip service than proactive involvement. Whenever it suits the U. S.’s goals, they will shape their foreign policy after expediency more than anything else. It may get better in the future, but judging from the past, one cannot be too optimistic.

The powerful hands are exactly the people formulating policy, and they obviously don’t have Cambodia on their screen. A petition signed by a paltry 2,000 mostly overseas Khmer and foreign supporters of the opposition won’t change official policy one bit.

Change must come from within. Pressure from outside, especially the U. S., will only entrench foreign governments in their position and make them look elsewhere for aid and support. This is exactly what Cambodia has done. They turned to China, which is only too willing to jump in in order to counter Vietnam’s influence in the region, and thumb their nose at the U. S. at the same time.

In that sense, all the SRP’s efforts to muster support from the U. S. are futile, if not outright counterproductive. If you want to beat a system you must do this at its own game. Suing the Prime Minister is certainly the wrong tactic. Pulling pubicity stunts and bringing the Vietnam border issue to the foreground is another failed tactic. What the opposition, foremost its leaders Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, need to do is appeal to the people at large. Since they can’t do this in the assembly, where they will be outvoted at every turn, they must look for other ways to convince voters that they are the ones who can bring about change that will benefit the masses and not only a few. By being abroad, and the voters in Cambodia see this very clearly, they are not helping the poor. They are seen as rich people who can afford to travel so widely just as the CPP’s rich people. They see no difference between them at all. After all, what are their sources of income? Believe it or not, this is what people on the street in Cambodia are asking.

Whether Ms. Sochua is a heroine or not is subject to personal interpretation. I believe the word hero/heroine is just used too lightly, especially in the U. S. I can’t see how she has made an impact in Cambodia since she came back as a Funcinpec member and Minister, and later as an SRP MP. Realistically, fighting for human rights and equality, freedom of expression, upholding the constitution, though noble causes they are, ranks lower than filling one’s stomach. Exactly this is where the opposition and their two most prominent leaders have failed dismally. Like in any other country the broad masses are apolitical. They care about their livelihood, their family, where the next meal comes from. You can’t make a peaceful world on an empty stomach. What all supporters of Mu Sochua and Sam Rainsy forget is the Khmer mentality. During their history Khmer people have learned to be stoic and endure until things get better – and better they will get. I can’t remember one instance in which the opposition’s leaders have helped the poor in a substantive way. Maintaining a high public profile abroad certainly isn’t doing the job.

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