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Posted by: | Posted on: April 3, 2012

An ASEAN Peacekeeping Force in Myanmar?

An ASEAN Peacekeeping Force would have been invaluable last year, at the height of the Thai-Cambodian spat, to patrol the contested border area as part of a conflict resolution mechanism. While tensions are currently deflated, the problem endures and can re-erupt at any time.  ASEAN should be prepared to react the next time. A credible multinational standby force could also demonstrate ASEAN’s determination to stand together in the face of outside threats in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

PacNet #23 Monday, April 2, 2012

An ASEAN Peacekeeping Force in Myanmar?

By Fuadi Pitsuwan

Fuadi Pitsuwan ( is a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a WSD-Handa Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii. The views expressed in this article are the author’s, not those of his affiliations.

Does the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want to sustain itself and hold credible weight in international politics? Does it want to develop and possess the ability to respond to potential challenges faced individually or collectively by its members? If so, then ASEAN should consider the establishment of a regional multinational standby force with a dual purpose of peacekeeping and collective defense against extra-regional threats.

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Posted by: | Posted on: January 26, 2012

Cambodia needs to see real change

Thank you very much Dr. Peang-Met for raising up this very important controversial debate. In Cambodia as people have been embedded by non-independent mass media including the unalienable traumatic past of war and genocide, the group of stability and stomach need, has been conveyed by majority. However, Buddhists who have learned and experienced deep understanding of the teachings see that the highest goal of Buddhism is “liberty”, not “the four necessities”. In practice, Nama (liberty) and Rupa (four necessities) must be equal and in balance.
In Vipassana meditation, practitioners cannot get into the Dhamma stream if one cannot balance Nama and Rupa. Socially and politically observing, Cambodia is not in the stage of any thing identical to these three stages.  Scandals of non-independent judicial system, economic development through poor evictions, non-independent mass media, rampant corruption from tops to bottoms, political autocracy, favoritism and cronyism etc. have been lingering on the murky stage…do we see Cambodia is in the pathway of engineering in development and stability, engineering in creating liberty, or engineering in balancing of both social commodities?
Jan. 25, 2012Cambodia needs to see real change

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth

Many readers emailed me following my series of articles on replacing Cambodia’s dictatorship with a democratic form of government. As many emails contained similar concerns, I have grouped those with similar themes and will use this column to deal with two.

I agree with readers who argued that what Cambodia needs — “first and foremost,” as a respected Khmer reader and author put it — is for the people to have “a filled stomach and stability.”
My “teachings” in this column mirror the substance of the “Introduction to Government and Politics” manual I wrote during my tenure at the University of Guam — that most of the world’s nation-states aspire to some common goals by giving government the task of providing for independence (free from outside control), stability (order and security) and economic and social well-being for all citizens. Cambodians should aspire to nothing less.
The fundamental philosophical conflicts between Western and Eastern civilizations — the West believes in the individual and his/her basic rights and freedom first; the East believes in the community and its security-stability first — have evolved.
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Posted by: | Posted on: October 27, 2011

Let campaign for real politics in Cambodia

Real politics focuses on real factors and current changes of a country. It doesn’t give much value to the past or the ideology of politics. Real politics is contradictory  to the politics of memory but it is a base of future politics.

If we talk about real politics in Cambodia, we might concentrate on how we can encapsulate self-reliance on key national fields such as heuristic political domain, economics of sustainable development and development for all, and the independence of judiciary system which can provide trust and just for all Cambodian people. Social security or social wellness needs trusted and just judiciary system.

At the moment, as a younger Cambodian, I can see that Cambodia cannot lift up its dignity as once it proclaimed a great empire in the region if Cambodian leaders and some Cambodians are still using the past trauma, genocide and previous regimes as their tools to measure the current development. It is very impossible to say that Cambodia today and Cambodia last several decades is in the same pace. Last few decades, economists didn’t use GDP to measure growths. Last several decades, we didn’t have iphone or broad band internet to watch online TVs or all visual video clips etc.

Wisely speaking and straight to the beneficial points for Cambodia, we must focus on improvement at the present for a better future. The past is just a lesson. It is incomparable to proclaim dignity for current Cambodians by comparing its present capacity to the past.

Hence, Paris Peace Agreement is a fact that we must remind to maintain our progressive conscience. PPA is the foundation for Cambodia. Cambodia can build other important parts of this nation-house because of this foundation. It is not wise to uproot or renege this foundation. Millions of dollar have flowed into Cambodia because of this PPA. The one who has received benefit most from the PPA is the one who has rejected this important foundation. Do you think they are an “ungrateful person” or Khmer called “Akattanno” or not?

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Posted by: | Posted on: March 9, 2009


POLS 703


by Alvin Lim

In 2005, just as America was reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, I embarked on a line
of flight from a quotidian life in Singapore, arriving in Phnom Penh to begin a new career as a
philosophy lecturer at Pannasastra University. Several months earlier I had resigned from my
excruciating human resources job at Singapore Airlines. So, it was as a Singaporean suffering
from ennui that I encountered several sites of memory of atrocity in Cambodia, some of which I
shall discuss in this essay. The organization of this paper is not what Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari (1987) would describe as aborescent, but is instead rhizomatic – its nodes crystallize
encounters I have and have not had with collective memories of atrocity (p. 21). This exploration
transverses time and space, and explores the political significance of sensory affects ranging
from the visual to the gustatory.

A Visit to Tuol Sleng

Under Pol Pot, the Tuol Svay Prey High School was transformed into S-21, the core of
Democratic Kampuchea’s internal surveillance and disciplinary apparatus. The former high
school’s classrooms were crudely transformed and deployed as prison cells and torture
chambers. During the Vietnamese occupation, S-21 was transformed into a genocide museum,
which has since become one of Phnom Penh’s most popular tourist destinations.
Any visit to a memory site of atrocity raises the question of visitor’s ambiguous identity as a
witness to the past or as a voyeur of the other’s pain. Philip Gourevitch (1998) confronted this
dilemma when he visited Rwanda’s Nyarubuye genocide memorial, where the murdered victims
were left unburied as a potent means of commemoration of their atrocious ends:

The dead at Nyarubuye were, I’m afraid, beautiful. There was no getting around it. The
skeleton is a beautiful thing. The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquility
of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there
– these things were beautiful, and their beauty only added to the affront of the place. I
couldn’t settle on any meaningful response: revulsion, alarm, sorrow, grief, shame,
incomprehension, sure, but nothing truly meaningful. I just looked, and I took
photographs, because I wondered whether I could really see what I was seeing while I
saw it, and I wanted also an excuse to look a bit more closely (p. 19).
Sven Lindqvist (1992), another explorer of historical pain, connects memory sites of atrocity to
the European project of colonialism. Noting that the Victorian liberal theorist Herbert Spenser
had applauded the extermination of those troublesome human populations that stood in the way
of the civilizing projects of Western colonialism (pp. 8-9), Lindqvist observes that:
The idea of extermination lies no farther from the heart of humanism than Buchenwald
lies from the Goethehaus in Weimar. That insight has been completely repressed, even by
Germans, who have been made sole scapegoats for ideas of extermination that are
actually a common European heritage (p. 9).
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Posted by: | Posted on: November 24, 2008

Cambodia’s New Intellectuals

by Geoffrey Cain

After France granted Cambodia independence in 1953, an impassioned renaissance swept Phnom Penh in the 1960s, a resurgent Angkorian nationalism alongside a potpourri of foreign influences tha included Beatlemania and existentialism. Many saw the city— once called the “Pearl of Asia”—a neutral safe haven from the havoc that rocked neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. Artists, writers and scholars frequented Phnom Penh’s beautified universities and cafés, discussing the great works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Picasso, while musicians and dancers revived traditional Khmer styles from the country’s Angkor-era height. Even then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the movement’s figurehead, was a filmmaker and singer who led a jazz band.

Fast forward a few years. Bombing campaigns, military coups and civil war rip the country apart. Intellectuals are targeted and wiped out under the Maoist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79 and their works​​​ destroyed. A former Khmer Rouge cadre named Hun Sen bullies his way into power in 1993 against United Nations-backed election results, and then orchestrates a coup against his co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranarridh in 1997. His ruling Cambodian People’s Party consolidates power in the media, and rampant corruption rankles the universities. Debate and discussion are left dead and a country is in ruins.

Yet today a brimming young movement of intellectuals resembling those of the 1960s is quietly—and sometimes anonymously— creating change in Cambodia. They mostly draw on the same inspirations and discuss the same topics of culture, politics and romance—the latter remains a highly taboo topic. Some even listen to the same music, writing about the classics of Simon and Garfunkel. Yet unlike their predecessors, these intellectuals do not mingle in French-style cafés and art galleries, but in the new wireless Internet cafés springing up in Phnom Penh.

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Posted by: | Posted on: August 30, 2008

Silent behaviour

Written by Sophan Seng
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Dear Editor,

Your recent news item titled “Good Karma for Sale” triggered my thoughts on the silent behavior of Cambodian people. Though the majority of the Cambodian population is Buddhist, they have only slightly learned Buddhist principles.

Over decades of social upheaval, Cambodian people seem to have fallen into a numb corner. This is a good chance for the Cambodian elite to take advantage of them. In term of economics, the Cambodian people are just enjoying the emergence of new buildings, roads and bridges. In term of politics, Cambodian people are satisfied with peace and social stability. This materialistic hard infrastructure blinds the Cambodian people to the all-important scene behind, the crucial soft infrastructure.

I don’t want to define current Cambodian politics as Abraham Kaplan said: “Politics is the redistribution of bandits.” But I prefer Gergen’s political thought: “A politician is a person who projects, motivates and rationalises the public for personal gain”.  World academic scholars have observed and concluded that many so-called authoritarian countries have adapted their strategies to receive the ideas of good governance, decentralisation and transparency, as well as to liberalise their national economics, with the intent of extending their power.

It makes sense for post-conflict Cambodian society to appreciate peace, stability, new roads paved, new schools and temples built, and modern cities urbanized. Generally, Cambodian people including Buddhist monks regard political leaders as the well-born persons who can legitimately own the power and wealth they have. Very often, they will not hesitate to beg them for donation. Very intelligent Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has never hesitated to utter his political rhetoric “culture of sharing”. Of course, this is the right time for political leaders to pursue this rhetoric.

Buddha addressed the way to go about donations in three thoughtful stages in order to plant wisdom into his audience. Firstly, concentrate on the right giver, secondly concentrate on the right receiver, and thirdly concentrate on the right material given. Significantly, the right material has not been given, in the same way as the crucial soft infrastructure has always been hidden.

For the long-term future and sustainable development, Cambodia should pursue the principle of every Cambodian citizen being offered the chance to get rid of this silent behavior, and political leaders should share the wisdom of reducing personal gain for the sake of collective national interests. Though the boat can move directly to the destination by a boat-hooker (leader), but without the competent boat-paddlers (peoples), the boat will inevitably be sunk.

Sophan Seng
Ph.D student of political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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