Cambodia Political Leadership

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Posted by: | Posted on: September 17, 2017

Should Western countries impose sanctions on Cambodia?

Op-Ed: Asia Times
Kongkea ChhoeunCambodian politics reached a new boiling point with the arrest of the opposition leader last week. Kem Sokha was handcuffed in the middle of the night in his house and accused of “treason” by the government.

Foreign governments have reacted to the arrest, and members of the opposition have called for them to take action against the Cambodian government. The questions now are these: What actions should the West take? And how tough should these actions be?

Political conditions in Cambodia have worsened in recent years, most notably after local-government elections in June this year. The 2013 national elections and the June 2017 local-government elections threatened the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Among a range of actions to weaken the opposition, in July this year, despite a boycott by the opposition, the CPP passed an amendment to the Law on Political Parties. The amendment allowed the government to ban convicted political leaders from running for political office, while  the parties run by them would be disbanded altogether. Sam Rainsy, the former opposition leader, had to resign from his Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) to save it from being dissolved.

Last week, the CPP regime jailed Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy’s successor, and charged him with colluding with a foreign power to topple the government. The accusation appears to be based mainly on a speech Kem Sokha made in 2013 to his supporters in Australia. At that time, he had boasted of the support he receives from Americans to advance his political career and unseat the CPP.

His arrest followed the government’s expulsion of a US-based non-governmental organization and the closures of The Cambodia Daily and local radio stations linked to Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

A number of foreign governments reacted promptly to the arrest. Australia and Japan expressed their concerns about the deteriorating political conditions in Cambodia and suggested that the CCP-led regime maintain a political environment favorable for a free and fair national election, to be held next July.

The US and the European Union went further, calling for the immediate release of Kem Sokha, but stopped short of announcing punitive measures if the government ignored their call.

China, however, opted not to pressure the Cambodian government and promised to stand by its side.

US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on September 12, 2017, sharply denying ‘extraordinary accusations’ that the US was involved in a plot to overthrown the government.

Members of the opposition are calling for the international community to take tough action against the Cambodian government, but have fallen short of prescribing specific actions. Nevertheless, it is customary for the opposition to seek international intervention when their political fortunes are under threat from the CPP-led government. Sam Rainsy called on the West to cut off aid and impose economic sanctions on Cambodia on many occasions in the past. Similar appealshave been made now in the aftermath of the arrest of Kem Sokha.

The question now is this: Should the West impose sanctions on Cambodia to restore political order?

Some countries, such as Japan, are certainly facing a dilemma, and their policy options are limited. The West and for that matter Cambodian citizens have to make a hard choice between accepting the status quo and potentially pushing Cambodia into China’s complete sphere of influence and wiping out the gains made in the past two decades in terms of economic development and democratization.

Slashing aid and imposing economic sanctions would definitely undermine Western countries’ past efforts to contribute to the development of Cambodia, which have been significant over the past two decades. They contributed to peace-building processes that  culminated in the October 1991 Paris Peace Accords. They aided the reconstruction of postwar Cambodia, channeling significant development assistance to the country. (Western aid accounted for more than 60% of the total in 2015.)

The United States’ and the EU’s special preferential trade agreements helped Cambodia develop its export sector, particularly the garment and footwear sector and related industries, which account for about 80% of the country’s exports.

The US extended Most Favored Nation status to Cambodia in 1996 and the Generalized System of Preferences last year. The EU extended its Everything but Arms scheme to the country in the early 2000s. Cambodia exported more than 60% of its products to the US and European markets in 2016.

Cambodia has also benefited from the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, but its exports to China accounted for only 6% of the total last year.

Garment workers walk in front of factories in Phnom Penh in October 2015 after government promises of wage increases fell short of their demands.

Thanks in part to Western assistance, the Cambodian economy has grown extraordinarily well over the past decades, averaging 7% per year since 1993 and helping poverty to fall more than 1 percentage point per year on average since 2003. Cambodia graduated from the status of a Least Developed Country in 2015.

In the event of Western economic sanctions, parts of the Cambodian export sector are most likely to collapse. In the short to medium terms, Cambodia is unlikely to be able to count on China to fill the vacuum left by the US and the EU, given that the two Asian countries are competitors in the global garment and footwear market.

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Posted by: | Posted on: January 7, 2017

Cambodia is confirming itself with weak national institution and strong political patrimonialism at the presence

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 92

This part (92) broadcasted by CMN Radio on Dec. 26-27, 2016, Mr. Sophan articulated on weak

Courtesy: SlidePlayer

Courtesy: SlidePlayer

institution in Cambodia that could lead to chaos and internal violence. This weak institution caused by authoritarianism leadership through lens of hybrid regime political leadership between democracy and communism. Observing from current Hun Sen leadership, he has likely adopted democracy through multiparty and election to fit his central power ambition. Also, he has likely adopted some sorts of communism to fit his central power ambition. For real democracy, the effort of leader is to endorse collective interest of the nation, rather than diffusing to personal interest and long lasting power projection. For pure communism, no multiparty conducting as well as no democratic election has ever operated, but those countries have been rigid in strengthening the rule of law and limiting the mandate of powerful top leaders. Cambodia has none of above leadership styles.

By reflecting the present viral distribution through social media of incident happening in Poipet, linking to recent racking down on civil society members and political opponent activists, the trend of weakening state’s institution to empower personal power and clan network shall result in social distrust, conflict and violence. This latest sign is a sign of failed state through operation of pseudo-democracy or hybrid regime endeavour in Cambodia.

Posted by: | Posted on: February 27, 2016

The effectiveness of leadership is to produce more leaders not more followers

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 51

This part (51), Mr. Sophan Seng elaborated on good leaders who have always produced more leaders, not more HE Sam Rainsy 9followers. Theoretically, the concept broadens from family leadership, to community and nation leadership. Western philosophy as well as Cambodian philosophy exclusively boosts the importance of empowering youths and new members of community to be self-reliance and self-accountability. Khmer proverb says “young bamboo shoots are the backbone of future generations” is a testament of this basic human resource leadership.

Practically, at the juncture of Cambodia changes, political landscape has been inherited by hierarchy of upper power abused their own power boundary to advance for personal gains. Subsequently, the lower powers and bottom line citizens are tamed to be submissive and dependent. This type of leadership shall shrink this nation in the long term future.

To develop this nation for long term future sustainable growth, the attitude change is a must for all Cambodian citizens. But to achieve this mission pragmatically, we should consider the Khmer proverb “don’t bent the Srolao tree, don’t instruct the oldies”. So to change attitude of Cambodian people, we should begin with those children (kindergarten or grade 1).

Posted by: | Posted on: February 27, 2016

Paternal Government and Oligarchy Leadership of Cambodia

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 50

This part (50), Mr. Sophan Seng analysed on an unavoidable internal conflicts within the weak laws enforcement hun_sen_and_ban_ki-moonstates. Political scientists found that major democratic states were evolved from internal conflicts and competitions especially among “personal interest group”. It is rare to having change to democracy through external force.

But, this evolution has experienced fragile and risky than sustainable success because of deadly conflicts among personal interest group and internal rivals were not deterred including the dividing force is too strong to resist.

PM Hun Sen has believed in himself about controlling people with all means he could use to maintain such leadership. His leadership style is more inclined into private CEO rather than to fulfill his duties in accordance to democratic principles or the rule of laws. Realistically, Cambodia has been a paternal government (leaders are regarded as father of the people) and oligarchy leadership (only strong and powerful networks operate the state affairs) through UNTAC organized democratic election in 1993. When PM Hun Sen were able to control power, he has remained using the same leadership “paternal government and oligarchy networks by mixing with crony free market capitalism”.

Many times, PM Hun Sen has explicitly and implicitly intervened the due processes of the Cambodia court. The effort to control the court shall intensify the internal conflicts as well as the bloody conflict which is hardly to be avoided.

Posted by: | Posted on: February 25, 2016

The tactic of creating events to control events of Cambodia political leadership part 48

Non-violenceThis part (48), Mr. Sophan Seng analysed the old political tactic of “creating events aiming to control events”. This tactics have been used a lot among those states with weak laws enforcement. When court is not reliable, the powerful can utilize all means to strengthen and prolong their power.

The strategy of “divide and conquer” has been also well-known among those week law enforcement state.

Posted by: | Posted on: January 8, 2016

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 47

HE Sam Rainsy 11

This part (47), Mr. Sophan Seng has continued to analyse on the political tension between Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Focusing on the weak national institution or lacking of political institution for the nation, the current shape of Cambodia political landscape is remained fragile. Though, political figures ie Somdach Hun Sen and HE Sam Rainsy have jointly established “Culture of Dialogue” to avoid further dividing according to Khmer proverb said “Tide up, fish eat ant; water recess, ant eat fish”. But this new approach is not enough to bring about change, and it has been fragile as the state’s political institution basing on the “Rule of Laws” has not been established.

Question on independence of three branches: Executive, Assembly, and Court implementing in a civilized state, how does it work as Member of Parliament must serve as Minister appointed by a winning party? In practice, Canada’s Minister couldn’t monopolize power or reshuffle the Ministry at all as those technicians and expertise are remained in position protected by the Law; or whenever Minister is changed or transferred, those expertise are fully respected in the same posts. For the Minister themselves, if they got less votes among their party’s rival/candidate within their constituent, the Minister Post shall also been affected.

This is contradictory to Cambodia that Members of Parliament are bordered by province boundary which is larger than ability of each MP to oversea it. More than this, MP Candidacy is appointed by party without conducting election to be chosen within their circle at all.