Home > Opinion > Cambodians need to help themselves

Cambodians need to help themselves

Many Cambodians fear the Khmer race and culture will be usurped if
Vietnamese are permitted to migrate to Cambodia unchecked, and Thailand
continues to threaten Cambodia’s border in a contentious, long-running
dispute over an historic site.

Yet Cambodians, in general, are not
united or unified; democrats have difficulties finding a common voice,
conflicts of personality and among groups are commonplace.

To save
Cambodia, Cambodians call for “reactivation” — implementation — of
the 20-year-old Paris Peace Accord, signed by 18 governments and the
four warring Cambodian factions, with the United Nations bearing
witness.

But the accord is a dead paper. The best stipulations are
only as good as the effectiveness with which they are implemented.
There’s no world guardian of individual rights, freedom and the rule of
law coming to the rescue.

Foreign governments watch the Hun Sen
regime violate rights, freedom and the rule of law; the neighbors to the
east and the west encroach on Khmer territory. Aid donors even provide
annual funds to keep the regime afloat.

Let’s face reality:
Democrats are on their own. National interest dictates the actions of
foreign governments, who deal with Hun Sen, as they needed a sense of
stability and security (through oppression) to produce other activities,
political and economic. They aren’t blind to Hun Sen’s autocracy or
ignorant of what it does to Cambodia.

But they don’t see a credible alternative.

Frustrated
Cambodians say they don’t need preachers behind a keyboard; they need
people who can make things happen. But if each Khmer does something,
things will happen.

Hun Sen loves the situation. With the help of
his “willing executioners” and his party machine, he perpetuates it.
Sadly, some regime opponents fall for his invite to be distracted from
fighting autocracy and involve themselves in wasteful infighting. Doubts
and suspicions are sown, gossip and rumors spread to stir and divide
opponents.

A week ago, a tape-recorded message of a 2007 telephone
conversation between Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party, and Hun
Sen created an uproar amongst democrats. Radio Free Asia’s May 29
report quoted Sokha’s allegation that Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian
People’s Party destroyed the royalist FUNCINPEC party and the Sam Rainsy
Party, and “now they want to destroy the Human Rights Party.” Sokha
denied he was ever a CPP puppet.

The conversation lent credibility
to the assertion that the HRP was created by Hun Sen to undermine the
SRP. On the recording, Hun Sen praised the HRP’s success through his
financial support and by allowing it to use the Olympic stadium to hold
its congress.

In yet another illustration of the self-destructive
tendencies of the democratic opposition parties, the Khmer People’s
Power Movement chairman, Serey Ratha Sourn, circulated a letter SRP
president Sam Rainsy wrote to present his “utmost sincere greetings” to
the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu
Trong, with the wishes for “friendship and brotherhood” between Cambodia
and Vietnam “based on mutual aid and mutual respects.”

Reaction
to more critical matters was eclipsed. For example, in April, leading
international human rights groups urged foreign governments to oppose
the Hun Sen regime’s proposed law that would allow it to shut down any
group considered opposed to the regime.

In early May, Christophe
Peschoux, head of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, was forced to leave Cambodia: “When there is no more limit to
executive power … it becomes arbitrary and abusive,” he said. “This is
what is happening today.”

A May 25 demonstration appealed to the
regime to save the Prey Lang forest, home to fruit trees, wild animals
and considerable biodiversity. It’s a green space that covers about
3,600 square kilometers cross four provinces and the traditional home of
members of the Kuoy ethnic minority. Some 700,000 people rely on the
forest for survival.

In September 2009, Hun Sen approved a 70-year
lease on the land to Vietnamese-owned CRCK Rubber Development Co. Ltd.,
which began land clearing early this year for a rubber plantation. On
May 30, SRP lawmakers asked Hun Sen to cancel all economic land
concessions in Prey Lang. A CPP governor blasted SRP lawmakers for
playing politics while the concessions bring development.

Of no
less importance was a Khmer poem on the Internet about Khmer soldiers at
the Khmer-Thai border. It asked why the soldiers are being abandoned
with insufficient food, water, medicine, clothing, blankets and mosquito
nets while Hun Sen’s security guards are well taken care of.

At
the same time, the Bangkok Post ran a story about Thai soldiers, whose
“effective weapon” is the “Fresh meals, better living conditions and
support from locals (that) are all part of the psychological war. …
During a break in the clashes, Thai troops often invite Cambodian
soldiers for a meal.” What’s wrong with this picture?

Lost in
cyberspace was the story of SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua and her team on the
“campaign trail” in northwestern Cambodia, visiting one village at a
time. In the May 31 posting, Sochua and her team were “surrounded,
harassed and threatened” by village authorities and CPP youth members as
she told villagers of their rights to free public health care and
education.

Cambodians must help themselves more for others to help
them. Their journey to rights, freedom and the rule of law is a human
rights issue that deserves more international help. Still, the
democratic opposition must focus its energy and activity on the problem
they all hope to solve, not on each other’s shortcomings.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D.,is retired from the University of Guam. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com.

Categories: Opinion
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