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Posted by: | Posted on: April 7, 2018

THE DUMPLING SHOP OWNER AT THE CENTER OF AN AUTHORITARIAN CRACKDOWN

THE DUMPLING SHOP OWNER AT THE CENTER OF AN AUTHORITARIAN CRACKDOWN

BY JUSTIN HIGGINBOTTOM

The experiment in democracy that is modern Cambodia seems to have hit a bump in the road. Actually, if Cambodian democracy were a car, it would be in a rice-field ditch and the villagers (and international observers) smelling smoke. Twenty-five years after the United Nations Transitional Authority ended its stewardship of the country, and despite having a new constitution, years of relatively free elections and billions of dollars in foreign aid, residents are effectively living under single-party rule. The question on people’s minds is what comes next — a tow truck or an explosion.

One interested observer is Sin Rozeth. The 34-year-old former commune chief and once rising political star was given the same choice as other members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party: defect to another party (preferably the ruling Cambodian People’s Party) or get out of politics. Rozeth chose the latter — she opened a dumpling restaurant in her old stomping grounds after the CNRP was forcibly dissolved in November — while looking for a way forward in the face of Cambodia’s increasingly totalitarian environment.

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Sin Rozeth is among those stars of 2007 elect-commune councils who have been speaking the language of bottom line people of Cambodia. They are working as the underdogs to reflect and reduce the autocrats and their children of family elites. Like Rozeth, other young politicians such as Chin Sok Ngeng (Siem Reap) Mao Phally (Kampong Chhnang) Siek Chamnab (Siem Reap), just mention a few, they are the future leader, the catalyst of change, and the agent of change, for Cambodia.

Sin Rozeth is among those stars of 2007 elect-commune councils who have been speaking the language of bottom line people of Cambodia. They are working as the underdogs to reflect and reduce the autocrats and the children of family elites. Like Rozeth, other young politicians such as Chin Sok Ngeng (Siem Reap),
Mao Phally (Kampong Chhnang),
Siek Chamnab (Siem Reap), just mention a few, they are the future leader, the catalyst of change, and the agent of change, for Cambodia.

Rozeth opened a restaurant to support her mother, and to make up for the loss of her meager public salary. But her accusers say it’s a front for illegal political activities. “If this restaurant is used as a place to gather fire, it is really dangerous for Rozeth and it should not be tolerated,” Chheang Vun, a ruling party lawmaker, posted on Facebook. In response to claims that she’s harboring “rebels,” Rozeth hung a banner outside: “Rozeth’s shop welcomes all guests, but not rebels.” The tongue-in-cheek gesture earned her a reprimand by the city governor, who warned that using such language could damage the kingdom’s reputation. Rozeth says she feels threatened by the ongoing harassment, and a group of former CNRP members sent letters to several international bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, seeking help in pressuring the government to stop the “bullying.”

In the short term, at least, one-party rule will continue in Cambodia, says Sophal Ear, professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College. And mounting new opposition will be difficult. ”It’s like razing an old grove forest,” he explains. “You’re not going to get 100-year-old trees. You’ll have young trees, and they’ll be easy to bulldoze if they get too strong.” National elections are scheduled for this summer, and it’s unclear whether CNRP’s former supporters will turn toward another party or abstain from voting, says Sinthay Neb, director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute in Phnom Penh. Whatever happens, he believes the best way forward is for both sides to meet and work together — however unlikely.

For now, Rozeth refuses to give up: “As long as one still has breath, there is still hope for democracy.” She stays busy traveling to villages to perform charity work (this too, she says, is closely monitored). And she helps people who come to her shop, even if it’s only for a good meal.

Before I leave the noodle shop — which has filled with the evening crowd — I take a few photographs of the owner. Other patrons notice and pull out their phones. Seems they all want a selfie with the politician turned restaurateur now under fire.

Continue to read this whole article at OZY…

Posted by: | Posted on: April 7, 2018

Can Cambodia’s fractured opposition survive?

Can Cambodia’s fractured opposition survive?

 PHNOM PENH, APRIL 5, 2018 3:48 PM (UTC+8)

In America, where many former CNRP officials now find themselves in exile, members of each clique have shared platforms and speaking engagements.

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have become figure of change against the status-quo of Hun Sen. The perpetual attempts of Hun Sen to divide them both has been in vain that leading to Hun Sen's aggressive paranoia to dissolve this party. The author must comprehend this moment that from what Hun Sen did in dissolving the CNRP, the unity and awareness have become greater and sounder in directing this force to bring back Cambodia's democracy, rule of laws, justice, wealth share fairness, social trust, and sustainable development.

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have become figure of change against the status-quo of Hun Sen. The perpetual attempts of Hun Sen to divide them both has been in vain that leading to Hun Sen’s aggressive paranoia to dissolve this party. The author must comprehend this moment that from what Hun Sen did in dissolving the CNRP, the unity and awareness have become greater and sounder in directing this force to bring back Cambodia’s democracy, rule of laws, justice, wealth share fairness, social trust, and sustainable development.

“Is the spirit of the CNRP still alive? Of course it’s still alive. The CNRM intends to be a placeholder for when the CNRP is reconstituted,” says Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College at Los Angeles.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party – North America (CNRP-NA), composed of chapters from different American states, was formed after the HRP and SRP merged in 2012. It was formerly the SRP-NA.

But, in 2014, a number of members and state chapters, supposedly those loyal to the HRP, broke away to create the CNRP-USA. Today, this group appears to have remained loyal to those who want to remain under the CNRP banner.

But Phan Prak, a representative of the CNRP-USA, says the organization “is not against the CNRM nor have we ever supported it. The CNRP-USA respects an individual to exercise their rights to join any organizations as they wish.”

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While there are attempts by government-aligned media to portray divisions within the opposition as a sign of its feebleness, another interpretation is that internal disputes ought to be welcomed in any pro-democracy party or movement.

Indeed, a positive reading of current events is that voices ignored in the past are now being allowed to air their thoughts and grievances. Some political analysts think this is an opportunity for a younger generation of opposition figures to emerge.

“It is so important for the opposition party to have new blood in its leadership. Leaders in the opposition party should be the mentors for the new blood,” says Noan Sereiboth, a political blogger.

There are some indications that is happening. Kem Sokha’s eldest daughter, Kem Monovithya, 36, has been one of the most active and vocal figures, meeting with US senators last month and Japanese officials last week. She declined to comment for this article.

At the same time, analysts say there is the danger that if infighting continues there will only be one winner: Hun Sen. If fissures go unresolved then it would be the “nail in the coffin of the one formula that seemed to work: the creation of a unified opposition,” says academic Sophal Ear.

Continue to read this article in Asia Times…

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