Thursday, September 22, 2011

Next Steps for the SRP

The Appeals Court reduced Sam Rainsy’s sentence by three years to seven. This has been the only item about him in the news for a long time now. Nevertheless some still ask whether he will get that royal pardon or not. I personally doubt it. This time the rift was too deep.

In that context I would like to quote two cables courtesy of Wikileaks. At about the same time I had come to the same conclusions – and I am no politician. Sam Rainsy is currently a non-entity in Cambodia. His virulent anti-Vietnamese rhetoric just does not resonate with the people as a whole. He merely panders to the geriatric Lon Nolists overseas with his diatribes.

Cable Jan. 29, 2010 - Excerpt
9. (C) The SRP Permanent Committee agreed January 28 to file an appeal later during the 30-day window, even though the initial public rhetoric will focus on the inability to secure justice and the futility of an appeal. Among the core SRP leadership, there is a realization that the loss of Rainsy's charisma, his dramatic speaking style, and his ability to unite will be keenly felt in Cambodia. A strategy to hold several digital video conferences with Rainsy from France and assurances of renewed commitment by the party faithful appear to be attempts to put a brave face on a serious setback. Some in the SRP worry that Human Rights Party (HRP) President Kem Sokha is already intent on stealing away SRP members to
the HRP in an attempt to make HRP the "legitimate opposition" that the CPP knows that it needs. Fissures in the SRP appear to be emerging with one group of accomplished and publicly
popular parliamentarians such as Son Chhay and Mu Sochua potentially squared off against an inner circle close to Rainsy and Tioulong Saumura, Rainsy's spouse and fellow SRP MP. Some observers see the Rainsy case as an old CPP tactic to divide and conquer the political opposition and suggest the CPP tactic is working.


10. (SBU) In both the prelude to the hearing and the reaction to the verdict, the SRP appeared uninterested in addressing the actual charges of Rainsy's role in property destruction and incitement, and instead focused on the larger issue of whether the border markers are improperly placed (Ref B). Rainsy continues to claim sole responsibility for the removal of the temporary border markers, despite video
showing he did not physically uproot them but brandished them for the cameras after others had pulled them up (Ref A). With the January 27 verdict, Rainsy cannot return to Cambodia unless he goes to prison or receives a pardon, which requires agreement of the government. In the meantime, without a leader present in Cambodia able to project a confident image and articulate opposition perspectives, the SRP faces tough decisions about what to do next and the ultimate direction of their party. In the end, most find it difficult to imagine how Rainsy's stunt will increase the SRP's political relevance in Cambodia, despite the headlines it attracted by Rainsy's very visible and vocal efforts to mobilize anti-Vietnam passion while most of Cambodia's population was focused on Thai border issues. However the SRP emerges from
this incident, it is clear that -- at least for now -- the playing field for opposition politics has been reduced as a result.

Cable Dec. 18, 2009 - Excerpt
Rainsy is doing nothing to calm the waters form his Paris venue, where he lashes out at the government a and attracts opposition funding. If Hun Sen sticks by his recent fit of pique not to pardon Rainsy until Rainsy has served two thirds of his sentence, the opposition may well have to readjust its leadership calibrations.
End quote

Meanwhile of late, the SRP members of parliament sent a letter to the local director of the World Bank asking that the WB maintain withholding funds from the Cambodian government until the Boeung Kak Lake issues have been resolved. Although those issues are indeed thorny and remedies are overdue and come rather late, if not too late, I have never read or known that MPs advocate measures aimed against their own country no matter of what quality they think the government is; those funds indirectly benefit their own constituents, among others. It is the WB’s perfect right to suspend funds, but for parliamentarians to ask them goes against the responsibilities and duties of elected members of parliament; it directly contravenes the principles of democracy in my mind. As long as the opposition is of such a caliber there is no chance on earth that they will ever have enough stature to be part of a government. So where is the alternative leadership the U. S. ambassador refers to? Isn’t it time for them to be more vocal? I haven’t read anything from them or about them. Two years until the next election is not a long time in terms of a campaign that has to make do without a lot of money for media exposure.

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