I have gained considerable experience not only in Cambodia but in Thailand and Vietnam as well. In the latter two countries I have not seen this crass disparity between how people think and what we Westerners think makes sense or is logical.
The latest news on the political front is a case in point. Finally the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party agreed to merge. Now this makes perfect sense, notwithstanding that the two party delegations had to met in Manila. After all, Sam Rainsy is banned from returning to Cambodia as jail time would be awaiting him once he set foot on Cambodian soil. They named the new party ‘Cambodia Democratic Movement of National Rescue’ – a mouthful – but it will most likely be shortened to the National Rescue Party in common parlance. It makes sense insomuch as combined the parties will be able to pool their resources better as opposed to competing against each other. They hope to garner about 30% of the vote in the next elections, which might not seem so farfetched based on the returns in last month’s commune elections. This would still only give them around 40 seats in the National Assembly, not enough to be meaningful in a parliamentary sense. Now speaking of reasoning, how will Sam Rainsy be able to lead the party? As party leader he is supposed to give impulses, formulate new concepts, and be visible as the leading candidate to the voting public. Barring an unlikely return he won’t be able to be active in the election campaign. After having publicly called Hun Sen a murderer any hope that there is a pardon in the pipeline must prove futile. A CPP spokesman already announced that Sam Rainsy’s political career is over. As a convicted criminal he is not allowed to run for office. Now why did they make him party chairman? Maybe they know more but for all practicable purposes this job should have fallen to someone else, perhaps Kem Sokha or Mu Sochua. Surely, being the president of the largest opposition party would not be enough in his special circumstances?
Another case of weird thinking and missing logic is the case against those ‘secessionists’. One of them, Mam Sonando, the owner of Beehive Radio, was arrested on his return from the Netherlands where he was assisting in putting together a case against Hun Sen and others in the government for crimes against humanity. Beehive Radio apparently had also broadcast several comments critical of Hun Sen. He is also suspected of inciting the secessionist actions in Kratie province. In one of his speeches the Prime Minister called for his arrest. Promptly, his obsequious underlings did just that. Naturally, they couldn’t use the impending action at the International Court of Justice. So they used secession as the reason for arresting him.
How can the people in power even begin to believe that someone would start a secession in a remote village in an equally remote (comparatively) province? The police and the military stormed the village, killing a teenage girl in the process. Who is to believe that? The public doesn’t have all the facts but by sheer logic it would seem suicidal to mount such a campaign in the current political arena. A village of a province in the middle of the country of all places. Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries on earth and dependent on foreign aid for about half its budget. Even the stupidest person would realize that a secession of a rural community would lead to absolute catastrophy. They would be an enclace surrounded by a hostile country that would not allow any goods to enter the enclave. A full blockade would be implemented. The enclave would literally be starved to death. Who would follow them in their secessionisst movement? All these simple questions make it abundantly clear that these charges are so farfetched as to be ludicrous. One is hard-put to understand how the government can expect the world to believe the veracity of those charges.
One thing, though, is remarkable in this whole deplorable saga. Mam Sonando knew he was going to be arrested on his return but returned nonetheless. He holds French and Cambodia citizenships so he could have safely stayed away. But he came home to face the music and to show to the world that he has nothing to hide and that he did nothing illegal.