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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Cambodia clampdown was long in the planning

“When ‘color revolution’ requires 132 pages to explain and defend as the basis of anything, someone’s working overtime to turn it into an excuse or ploy to crack down on the opposition, NGOs, the media and government critics,” said Sophal Ear, an associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “The metaphorical hammer is being used on their heads.”

Hun Manith, the second Hun Sen's Son and Military Intelligence Head is believed the instigator of creating "colour revolution" narrative to dissolve opposition aiming to win election that has no legitimacy. The colour revolution narrative is an excuse to maintain Hun Sen power in one-party state which is contradictory to the national Constitution.
Hun Manith, the second Hun Sen’s Son and Military Intelligence Head is believed the instigator of creating “colour revolution” narrative to dissolve opposition aiming to win election that has no legitimacy. The colour revolution narrative is an excuse to maintain Hun Sen power in one-party state which is contradictory to the national Constitution.

There was also the matter of a June 2017 local level commune elections that had the potential to build electoral momentum for the CNRP ahead of the national polls. The CNRP gained a strong foothold in the countryside, winning 5,000 seats. However, those and national level seats won in 2013 were given to smaller parties after the CNRP’s dissolution.

Hun Manith saw the commune elections as a potential springboard for an opposition uprising. “As you might be aware, this kind of regime change took place near and after an election, and Cambodia will have a commune election in 2017. Is it a coincidence?” he said in the 2016 interview.

“In order to succeed in mobilizing the people for regime change, they need to create a negative perception about the government, for locals and also in the international arena. Once the perspective succeeds, all the means and tactics for regime change will be justified.”

The CPP’s propaganda apparatus, including most notably the pro-government Fresh News outlet, was later mobilized to convince a skeptical public and an even more skeptical international audience that its moves against the opposition were warranted.

The Phnom Penh Post reported in March that Fresh News released a 700-page collection of open letters, commentary and political analysis spinning Cambodia’s recent political crackdown into a successful prevention of a color revolution.


Former Phnom Penh Post News Editor Sebastian Strangio, also the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said Fresh News’ role was perhaps more important in shaping the news than it was in delivering it, saying “They don’t really do journalism.”

However, while the average Cambodian struggled to understand exactly what a color revolution was, Los Angeles-based academic and political analyst Sophal was under no illusions.

“The Cambodian people understand the term ‘color revolution’ insofar as it’s being used as a hammer swung on their friends’ heads, which is a whack-a-mole exercise that is more likely to result in their own heads being hit,” he told Asia Times.

“Some people are of course absorbing this and drinking the Kool Aid, but there’s also a sense that anything Fresh News and Khmer Times (newspaper) says is bad is actually good, and anything they say is good is actually bad.

“I never cease to be amazed at how smart Cambodians are at seeing through the fog. In a place where the Orwellian modus operandi that white is black and black is white prevails, Cambodians aren’t fooled for a second.”

While attempts to justify attacks on the CNRP continued and senior party members fled the country fearing arrest, the prime minister’s second son was promoted inside the military from Major General to Lieutenant General, recognition for his “good achievements”, including possibly his role in the successful suppression operation against the CNRP.

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