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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Petition to the U. S. President

The PPP reports that Md. Mu Sochua, SRP MP, is traveling to the U. S. carrying with her a petition to the President Obama.

The petition asks the President to condemn the Cambodian government and Supreme Court for their lack of accountability, fairness in the judicial process, etc. We by now know the list of grievances human rights activists and the opposition have. A ‘whopping’ 2,000 people, mostly online, will sign that petition.

The one baffling thing about Mu Sochua, who is also a U. S. citizen, is that she spends a lot of time away from Cambodia. She is now traveling there for a documentary film on human trafficking. No doubt, this is a noble cause, and Md. Mu Sochua is well known as a fighter for women and children’s rights. Her proponents never tire of pointing out that she was once a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Normally, that information is withheld from the public, but in this case her supporters believe it surely enhances her stature. I am sure it is an honor to be put forward for the nomination, but let’s not forget that initial list can comprise 500 or more nominees.

I am just not sure what the initiators of that petition are trying to accomplish with it. First, Md. Sochua won’t be able to hand it over personally. It might just as well be sent by mail. Second, the petition asks a head of state to condemn another country’s institutions. It doesn’t matter whether or not this is a dictatorship, democracy, or anything in between, foreign governments usually do not interfere in another nation’s domestic affairs, legal or otherwise. Even the extradition of the Uyghurs to China provoked only luke-warm criticism from an Under Secretary of State.

The main question, however, is why Md. Mu Sochua and Sam Rainsy always try to raise the international community to aid in their cause. A cause they obviously are not able to propagate with their own means. Observers have stated that the international community hardly listens any more to the same grievances over and over again. They have simply tired of that litany. Equally as obviously, they cannot find any resonance for their cause in Cambodia itself. But it is there that they need to find broader support in order to further their agenda. By being abroad so much they remove themselves more and more from the people they are supposed to work for.

Under normal circumstances Md. Mu Sochua seems to be a very sensible person - with the exception of her ill-fated lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen. Why don’t they organize a grass roots organization instead of spending all that money on expensive travels abroad? Of course, they use those travels as fund-raisers at the same time, which is all good, but why not put the money to better use in Cambodia.
If she wants to be an international celebrity, she should maybe return to the U. S. There is a greater chance to get into the limelight there.

This petition as well as many of the SRP’s endeavors seem pointless and wasted efforts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

As Was Expected

The past couple of weeks have seen some decisive events in the course of political life in Cambodia.

First Sam Rainsy lost on appeal in Hor Nam Hong’s defamation suit against him in France. Now, in this case nobody can claim that the courts were bought or biased towards any party. They strictly rule on the basis of evidence and that evidence did show that Sam Rainsy was wrong in his accusation that Hor Nam Hong was part of the Khmer Rouge at the Boeung Trabek work camp.

Sam Rainsy claimed his witnesses were too intimidated to come forward, and Hor Nam Hong’s witnesses were bought. He didn’t say this outright but in essence that was what he meant.

The outcome of the case doesn’t really prove either side right, only that Hor Nam Hong’s evidence was preponderant. But finally, this case is over for good, and it is time for Sam Rainsy to move on.

And moving he is. According to news reports, he is traveling the U. S. and Canada to drum up support for his case on alleged border encroachments by the Vietnamese. I am sure he will find open ears at his North American audiences, because nobody is farther from Cambodian reality than those folks. One Sean Pengse, by all accounts another reactionary with claims to historical knowledge and a right to judge, accompanies him. The French-based Border Committee is a paper tiger, but they just don’t want to believe it. They spend other people’s money pursuing a lost cause. They might as well throw it right out the window. Regardless of the merits of their findings and presentations, the unalterable fact remains that a legal Cambodian government and parliament, and that’s what they are notwithstanding counterclaims by the opposition and various other factions, are the only bodies that determine what happens in terms of border demarcation through bi- or multilateral treaties. Period.

Meanwhile, the other prominent SRP-member, Ms. Mu Sochua, lost her appeal in Hun Sen’s defamation lawsuit against her. I myself do believe that this is an aberration of the judicial process, but the outcome was to be expected, wasn’t it?

Here is a comment by an obviously Khmer anonymous writer on KI-Media on her case that sums it up nicely.

Mu Mu deserves it. She brought this case upon herself. If she doesn't believe the court can provide her with justice, why bring this case to court and try to sue Hun Sen in the first place. Now since HS sue her back and won, she cry the court unfair. The same as Sam Rainsy losing the case to Hor Nam Hong again and again in France and still cannot accept that he lose the case.

Who said the word strong leg is a bad word! The word Jeung Klang is a complimentary. Meaning a strong person, strong mind, a fighter

And then came the stunning news. Cambodia’s donors pledged $1.1billion in aid to the country. Numerous NGOs had called upon the donor nations to use their aid prudently in the context of human rights, judicial reform, and socially beneficial use of resources. The government will no doubt use this record amount as an indication that their policies are in line with the international community. The Prime Minister vowed to combat corruption with all might. Needless to say, various know-it-alls in different corners of the overseas Khmer community as well as some expat leeches within the country – those that are most strident in their comments and criticism and are here for no other purpose than to lead an easy life on the cheap, ridiculed him for this.

One really needs to see the environment in which this happened. Sam Rainsy was stripped of his immunity and is in exile, Mu Sochua lost her case at the Supreme Court and is bound to go to prison if she doesn’t pay her fine; questions of accountability and transparency were raised resonantly throughout the press and some serious NGOs. International watchdogs, e. g. Global Witness, vociferously warned donor nations, the U. S. government had sharply criticized the extradition of the Uyghur asylum seekers, U. S. congressional representatives introduced legislation to punish Cambodia; all to no avail. The donor nations saw progress and dished out the cash, so to speak. Make no mistake, however. This two-day conference was just to finalize the process. They had all come with their minds made up and their budgets ready; they had all done their due diligence back home already. The Cambodian government might be smirking at their opponents now, while the opposition appears rather hapless. Perhaps it is time to change strategy and come up with an alternative game plan? Border issues just don’t cut it with the population at large, and the opposition seems to have lost their credibility abroad.