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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 email@example.com.
Dear Esteemed Members,
I have tremendously learned from this discussion. Observing since my teen to present adulthood, the static of influencing the youth and framing on their future shape is remained intact. Hence, the current exit passage of the youth through new mean of social media shall result in a disorganized outcome.
1. Recalling my teen, i was influenced by parents, school teachers, community elders and political figures. My single mother encouraged me to work hard on school while she discouraged me from involvement with politics or social issues. Seeing with her own eyes of bitter social upheaval, she randomly warned me of don’t talk what you see, don’t say what you want, and she told to grow Ko tree and sesame plant to keep blind eyes and mute mouth with all political issues. At school, i was taught to use guns, to disassemble and assemble guns, and teachers instructed about crimes of Pol Pot, Kiev Samphan, and Ieng Sari, the teachers boasted confidently without any interruption on the political ideology of Max-Leninism in classrooms. At community, i was bullied by adults in a daily basis. Like i wrote in previous email, beside of instructing to use different tricks of zero sum game to overcome rivals, those adults repeated the phrase of “don’t teach all knowledge to your students because those students could topple you at the end”. I highly praised Premier Hun Sen through his speech played on public loud speakers about negotiations with Prince Norodom Sihanouk at the time.
2. I am remained disappointed to the popular proverb of “young bamboo shoots shall take turn from old bamboos” or “unity is power” while the mechanisms to make them happen are not designed or incentivized to design. Parenting lessons are not taught to students, to pedagogical courses, and to parents. Political system is vastly patron-clientalism in which has placed the learned and the merits-based culture at the marginalized spot. The national institution has not been established and often been ruined by the embedded cult of god-king. The present emerge of youth participation in politics is not regulated. It has been disincentivized by the institution.
3. The world and civilized states are embracing modern “growth mindset” while Cambodia is strongly seen in attaching to “fixed mindset”. When growth mindset praised someone on their efforts, accepting individual limitation, and to give up or sacrifice power as suitable time arrived, Cambodians are praising those with light skin with luxurious commodity and longed power status, or they are not been reluctant to admire their good Kamma accumulated in past life so that they could enjoy it at the present time without obstruction etc. Instead of saying “keep on trying with this work”, Cambodian teachers might say “you are very smart” to their students.
4. According to figures by international researches, Cambodia has been well off in building up fat body but paralyzing citizenship’s mind. For instance, ADB praised 7 digits of annual growth and sometime named Cambodia as “tiger” but corruption and freedom of speech which are vibrant cells of blood and mind have been gradually paralyzed and inflicted adding on to the existing traumas. Youths are believed becoming byproducts of these paralyzing and inflicting machine.
Buddha taught “all things are interconnected and inseparable (Pathiccasammudphatha)” as Nama (mind) and Rupa (body) are inseparable component of LIFE.
Overseas Absentee Voting in South East Asia by comparing between Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philiphines
Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 64
This part (64), Mr. Sophan Seng analysed overseas absentee voting by comparing between Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
According to IDEA, an organization focusing on Diaspora worldwide, there are more than 300 countries have included their overseas citizens to vote their home-country elections. In the ASEAN region, the record illustrated Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Lao, have included their overseas citizens. Malaysia is believed to include overseas citizens to vote in the next election.
Qualification of Overseas Voters
Who/what may be voted
Deadline for Receipt of Ballots
|Indonesia (1.36 m est. Overseas population)||A citizen, age 17th, and a registered voter||President, Vice President, Members of Parliament for electoral district of Jakarta||Voting in PersonPostal Voting||Election day||Election day||N.A. Except for The Netherlands where turn-out was 77%|
|Pillippines (7.76 m estimate overseas population)||A citizen, age 18 and a registered voter||President, Vice President, Senators and Party-List Representatives to Congress||Voting in PersonPostal Voting||30 days for land-based voters; 60 days for seamen||Election||65.00%|
|Thailand||A citizen, age 18 on January 1 in year of election, and a registered voter||Members of Parliament||Voting in PersonPostal||Variable subject to discretion of embassy or consulate||6 days before election day||39.53% (2000)35.7%
ជាការពិតណាស់ នយោបាយអហឹង្សធម៍និងការប្រើប្រាស់បញ្ញាជាអាវុធ រមែងមិនបង្ហាញរូបភាពខ្លួនជាសាធារណៈទេ តែវាមានជាវិជ្ជមាននៅគ្រប់ស្រទាប់អ្នកស្រឡាញ់យុត្តិធម៍ បញ្ញវន្ត និងយុវជនជំនាន់ថ្មី។ ជាការបញ្ជាក់នូវបំរែបំរួលជានិច្ចនៃបរិបទនយោបាយខ្មែរ សំលែងជិត៥០ភាគរយដែលគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិមាន ត្រូវប្រើបាស់អោយបានជាប្រយោជន៏នូវគ្រប់លទ្ធភាពទាំងអស់។ ជាក់ស្តែង តំណាងរាស្រ្តត្រូវបន្តទិតៀនដើម្បីស្ថាបនាដល់ទង្វើមិនសមរម្យរបស់បក្សដឹកនាំរដ្ឋាភិបាល និងចុះជួបអ្នកគាំទ្ររបស់ខ្លួនជាប្រចាំ។ ការហៅលោកនាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រីមកបំភ្លឺរឿងវៀតណាមជីកស្រះទឹកលើទឹកដីខ្មែរនៅឯជាយដែនក្តី ការកោះហៅរដ្ឋមន្ត្រីក្រសួងយុត្តិធម៌មកឆ្លើុយបំភ្លឺក្តី សុទ្ធសឹងជាកាតព្វកិច្ចរបស់តំណាងរាស្ត្រសំលេងភាគតិចក្នុងសភា។ សូមសិក្សាពិនិត្យអោយបានល្អិតល្អន់នូវអំណាចនិងបុព្វសិទ្ធិដែលអាចធ្វើបានរបស់តំណាងរាស្ត្រសំលេងភាគតិចទាំងអស់ ហើយត្រូវតែប្រើវា ព្រោះនេះជាការបំពេញករណីយកិច្ចក្នុងនាមជាតំណាងរាស្ត្រ ហើយពិនិត្យមើលនូវការបំពេញកាតព្វកិច្ចដែលខ្វះវិជ្ជាជីវៈរបស់មន្ត្រីគ្រប់ជាន់ថ្នាក់រួមទាំងក្រុមចៅក្រមនិងព្រះរាជអាជ្ញាផងដែរប្រសិនបើពួកគេបំពានច្បាប់ព្រោះរងសំពាធឬពោរពេញទៅដោយអគតិ៤នោះទេ។ ការព្រមាន ការដាក់ទោស ឬការដាក់វិន័យ ចំពោះមន្ត្រីរាជការណាដែលប្រព្រឹត្តល្មើសរឿងទំនាស់ផលប្រយោជន៌គឺជាវិធានចំបងគេមួយ។
Pragmatically, avihimsa (tolerance) and using wisdom to solve problems have always moved underneath the public eyes but this approach is active in all situations among justice lovers, the learned, and young generation. Ascertaining the dynamics of Cambodia politics, nearly 50% of popular votes CNRP attained must be used at the fullest. Apparently, law-makers must continue to constructively criticize inappropriate performance of the government-led party and regularly serve their voters at the constituencies. Inviting the Premier to clarify in front of the Assembly about the encroaching ditch digging of Vietnamese at the border at the Assembly and inviting minister of justice to answer those irregular activities are obligation of the minority voice representatives. Conduct deep research and study on power and prerogatives of the Minority group of representatives and use them at the fullest because this is the obligation of the representatives to audit all performance and incorrect activities of the officials in all levels including judges and prosecutors if they violated the laws and professionalism pressured by the powerful or indulged into four biases. Warning, punishing or taking disciplinary on those violated on “conflict of interest” are rudimentary.
(Photo courtesy: Sam Rainsy Facebook Page)