April 15, 2012
An article by Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth published by the Asian Human Rights Commission
Talking about the need for political change in Cambodia gets “old.” I write aplenty in this space and elsewhere on the topic, yet Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party persists and keeps piling on more reasons why change must occur.
It’s obvious a lot has changed in Cambodia, especially the mirage of development and progress seen in images of bustling metropolitan cities with high rises, latest model cars, crowded markets and restaurants, camera-toting tourists. Cambodia is a paradise for foreign investors who compete for her markets and resources. This influx of capital accelerates change, but these are the sort of changes that should be taken only after deliberation and consideration of their potential impact. This broad-based review does not occur in Cambodia today.
The more things change
An oft-quoted proverb of French origin by novelist Alphonse Karr (1808-90), later quoted by George Bernard Shaw and others, says, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” or “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Is this paradoxical?
I admit to being chagrined at reading a commentary by an editor of the Bangkok Post who in “Poor Cambodia not looking so ‘poor’ anymore,” (April 6) noted ironically that “billions of dollars in aid money” help make Phnom Penh visibly “clean” and “spotless” a la Singapore, “at least in those areas where (foreign) delegates (to the ASEAN conference) were either visiting or staying,” with “perhaps … the highest number of Lexus vehicles per capita” and “only three beggars” observed. “I personally don’t believe that the funding (from aid donors) ever reaches those Cambodians in real need in any case,” the editor writes, among other things.
Widespread concern among observers about the worrisome widening gap between those is confirmed by a longtime friend, a non-Cambodian professional with decades-long experience working with peoples in developing countries, who shared World Bank data that show the dramatic rise in economic inequality.