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Political history of Cambodia has illustrated less scene on how changing from government to government affects on incumbent government’s level of public servants? Major scenes are regime change which changed the whole system. But during the UN’s monitored election in 1993, the change of government was become impossible as two prime ministers and other two assigned duties to each political apparatus smoothly coordinated. During that time, some leaders said the change were down to principles and superintendents of public schools. This practice has surely affected on society unity and corruption embeddedness. Now, there are questions on how CNRP plan to change level of government’s positions when this party won election in 2018?
Comment: Nicely termed indeed to call Cambodia democracy “gray zone” or “foggy zone”. For me, it is beyond that two zones acclaimed by academicians, it is a “risky ridge zone” between crocodile and tiger. Cambodian people know very well that China is crocodile and Vietnam is tiger. Kampuchea Democratic Party led by Pol Pot has evidenced on humankind devastation when their organ was purely given birth and bred by Vietnam but nurtured and nutrient by China. Under current leadership of government-led party CPP, the history repeat itself.
Cambodian Democracy: Trapped in the ‘Gray Zone’
Op-Ed: The Diplomat http://thediplomat.com/2016/
Cambodian’s democracy is not developing — it is stagnating.
By Chum Chandarin, July 27, 2016
I greatly appreciate that Parker Novak’s interest in Cambodian politics and that he foresees a positive outcome for Cambodian democracy. Unfortunately, as a Cambodian, I believe his article entitled “Cambodia’s Democratic Development: Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain,” fails to engage some facts which could lead to an unrealistic hope about Cambodian society and stagnate democratization.
While Novak observes the absence of violence and removal of some clauses in the cyber law as a positive trend toward democracy, he misses some important issues that are concerning democratic advocates and scholars around the globe. What is happening in Cambodian politics is not unique, compared to what is happening in Latin America as well as other Southeast Asian nations. A quick look at the Freedom House reports would reveal that Cambodia is still classified as an authoritarian state, as it has been for decades. Cambodia does not even fit into the minimalist conception of democracy introduced by Joseph Schumpeter — a ruler elected “through a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” — let alone Robert Dahl’s “polyarchy” which demands free and fair elections as well as the rights to participation, expression, and information.
The positive look at Cambodian democracy is misleading. Cambodia is falling into the “political gray zone,” a term coined by Thomas Carothers in the January 2002 issue of the Journal of Democracy, in an article entitled “The End of the Transition Paradigm.” The political gray zone is a space where countries are “neither dictatorial nor clearly headed toward democracy,” according to Carothers. The regimes have certain democratic institutions but are less accommodated to political opposition and civil society participation. Citizens in this gray zone context do not meaningfully participate in the polity besides voting and the political parties are entertaining each other without making any serious reforms toward a deeper democracy.
Similar to the gray zone, Andreas Schedler in 2002 introduced the term “foggy zone” where two types of regimes, electoral democracy and electoral authoritarianism, are produced in between the poles of closed authoritarianism and liberal democracy. To him, elections are needed for a democratic country, but true democracy has to go beyond the elections to the institutionalization of “other vital dimensions of democratic constitutionalism, such as the rule of law, political accountability, bureaucratic integrity, and public deliberation.”
Cambodia is trapped within the “foggy zone” and qualifies as an electoral authoritarian state as it has failed to institutionalize its democratic institutions. There are recurring free elections but not fair competition. The military is under one-man rule. The court is influenced by politics. Fundamental rights granted by the Constitution have been continuously violated. Clearly, the beatings of opposition members of parliament (MPs) in broad daylight in front of the National Assembly and the detention of opposition politicians are some of the many examples of ways the ruling party is abusing its own law.
Thus, to argue that Cambodia is heading toward a meaningful democracy, and shall merely bear some pain along the way, is to miscalculate the authoritarian’s ability to consolidate his power and manipulate democratic rules to camouflage his dictatorship. It will take a stronger push from both local and international actors to advocate for more meaningful democracy. Cambodians have been enduring enough pain, have lost many lives, and have vigorously spoken for true democracy in their country. If elections are the only road to democracy, yet the election does not reflect the people’s true will, what can Cambodians hope for?
CHUM Chandarin is a senior lecturer in a private University in Cambodia. He is currently undertaking his PhD study in the field of democracy and decentralization in a European university. He used to work with various organizations in the field of community development and education
Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 66
Op-Ed: The CEROC
This part (66) broadcasted by CMN Radio on May 23rd, 2016, Mr. Sophan Seng articulated on the ongoing interference of the Cambodia government-led party CPP towards the independent court as the court has executed Ny Chariya, secretary of National Election Committee (NEC), after pro-government Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) interrogated and detained him.
At the present, Rong Chhun who is member of nine high ranking officers of NEC was also reopened the past expiry case involving his status of President of Independent Teachers Association accused by the government on minimum wage protesting by the garment workers in 2014.
Both legal accusations towards NEC’s officers government suspected on their performance is a grave threatening towards the success of next commune election 2017 and national election 2018.
Op-Ed: Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth
Last month, I engaged in an extensive interview by email, responding to questions from Russian journalist Stephan Jarinsky. The convergence of developing responses to those questions and the recent death of a longtime friend with whom I collaborated when fighting Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in the 1980s caused me to be particularly reflective.
One question that I found intriguing was Mr. Jarinsky’s inquiry about how to describe modern day Cambodia’s regime. I chose Cambodia’s Constitution, adopted in Phnom Penh in 1993, as a point of discussion. The contrast between the promises described in the governing document and the execution of governmental functions by an autocratic and unaccountable regime could not be more stark. I spent more than a decade of my life trying to install a democratic regime in Cambodia. Countless friends and brave combatants were lost in that struggle. What we “won” was a government based on a Constitution that was the foundation for hope.
Article 1 says, “Cambodia is a Kingdom with a King who shall rule according to the Constitution and to the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism.” Article 8 makes the King “a symbol of unity and eternity of the nation”; the “guarantor of national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” “the protector of rights and freedoms of all citizens and the guarantor of international treaties”; and Article 9 assigns the King the “august role of arbitrator to ensure the faithful execution of public powers.” Today the King is a virtual prisoner in the royal palace compound, reminded ominously by the regime in power that his security cannot be guaranteed if he ventures into his country.
Article 31 states, “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.” Article 32 states: “Every Khmer citizen shall have the right to life, personal freedom and security”; Article 38, “The law guarantees there shall be no physical abuse against any individual. The law shall protect life, honor, and dignity of the citizens . . .” These rights are not enforced. Thousands have been forcibly evicted from their lands so that the property may be sold or leased to foreign entities that have paid officials for the privilege. Citizens have been beaten and jailed for civil protests, have had their ballots negated. Neither the security of person or property is assured.
An old friend of mine wrote four decades ago about a false choice between the killing fields of Pol Pot and the new killing fields that were created by Vietnamese invading troops that installed the current regime and by the corrupt regime that has endured. My friend referred to that false choice as being caught between the plague and cholera.
Article 150 says, “This Constitution shall be the Supreme law of the Kingdom of Cambodia.” Perhaps one day it shall be. But today it is not.
Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam where he taught political science for 13 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.