It seems as if Cambodia is trying with all its might to obtain a higher international standing judging by the parade of foreign dignitaries that recently arrived, are here, or will be arriving soon. Of course, there are the usual inter-ministerial meetings between Vietnam and Cambodia, the frequent visits by Chinese officials, but this week the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was here and on Sunday, Hillary Clinton will arrive for a two-day visit.
In the Prime Minister’s typical fashion, he ‘suggested’ that the U. N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia be removed from his post since he is just echoing the opposition parties’ complaints and acts as their mouthpiece. I guess it is well known that Hun Sen doesn’t take well to criticism of Cambodia’s human rights record, or of his policies in general, for that matter. The PPP reports that he even went so far as to indicate he would close this office. I haven’t read anything about Ban Ki-Moon’s response but it sure would have been interesting to be present for the actual reply.
Unfortunately, it indeed appears as if those rapporteurs actually do repeat the complaints of the various opposition and civic groups, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise as all those independent observers need to gain their knowledge from sources both within and outside the government, that is, from exactly those opposition and civic groups. The same applies to Human Rights Watch and other NGOs. In my view, the observations by NGOs and civic groups are almost or just as unbalanced as the government’s views. The only ones that seem to be somewhat more objective are the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Licadho. But be that as it may, no one with a pre-cast Western mindset will have any luck in that position in Cambodia for the foreseeable future.
Hillary Clinton is one of the most prominent fighters for women’s rights but in her position as Secretary of State, she must represent the policies of an administration that may not always be identical to her views. Expediency and national interests shape policies, not ideals – and the world is far from being an ideal place. I am just wondering what the U. S.’s interest in Cambodia is. They hold joint military exercises, much to the chagrin of Mu Sochua and the opposition; it lauds Cambodia for its efforts in the fight against terrorism, in general is rather friendly towards Cambodia despite Cambodia’s poor human rights record as presented by the various international organizations. Vietnam with an equally poor record is a frequent destination for all sorts of U. S. officials; in fact, this will be Hillary Clinton’s second visit in the last three months. So one can clearly see that American politics is determined by economic interests first and foremost, and to a lesser extent by trying to counter Chinese influence in the region.
The thorniest issue will probably be Cambodia’s debt incurred during the Lon Nol years. That bozo, what else could you call such a man, of assistant deputy under secretary Yun had the nerve to testify before a Congressional committee and said that the U. S. does not have a policy to forgive debts. Of course, it did have a policy of secretly and illegally bombing this country causing thousands of innocents to die or to be displaced, not to mention the material and environmental damages the country suffered. ‘It would set a bad example to other nations.’ What was this man thinking when he prepared this unconscionable statement?
By any definition, these were war crimes and crimes against humanity as well. But who dares file a lawsuit against the U. S.? Of course, it would take a lot of guts, not to mention money, to pursue this. I am sure federal courts, the proper venue for such a complaint, would take it up. Mind you, the U. S., that bastion of the rule of law, does not recognize the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But as all those self-proclaimed fighters for justice point out, justice in Cambodia is served with two measures, one for the rich and powerful, and one for the poor. To me, this equally applies to the U. S. and small Cambodia as well.
Hillary Clinton’s visit should be a great opportunity for Mu Suchua. I really wonder how Mu Sochua will come off in her meeting with Hillary Clinton and how she will use it to her advantage and enhance her stature as the main opposition figure. The way things go these days it doesn’t seem even remotely likely that Sam Rainsy will ever return to Cambodia to lead the opposition in the next elections. Calling for Hun Sen’s arrest as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity and filing lawsuits against him in the U. S. and possibly other countries will make it very hard for Hun Sen to cast aside his personal animosity towards Sam Rainsy and allow him back in. (Not that those lawsuits will have any prospect of ever being actually tried. Hun Sen is a sitting Prime Minister of a diplomatically recognized country and enjoys diplomatic immunity, not to mention whether there is real evidence to file those charges in the first place. Sam Rainsy hasn’t shown a lucky hand in filing foreign lawsuits in the past. Attorneys will file any lawsuit as long as they get paid.)