Cambodian PM warns of ‘dead’ opposition if EU withdraws preferences

Op-Ed: Reuters

“If you want the opposition alive, don’t do it and come and hold talks together,” he said.

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday threatened to retaliate against the opposition if the European Union withdraws duty-free trading access over human rights concerns.

Courtesy: The Diplomat

The EU in November began a formal procedure to strip Cambodia of its Everything but Arms (EBA) status, after Hun Sen returned to power in a July general election in which his party won all of the seats after a crackdown on the opposition.

“If you want the opposition dead, just cut it,” Hun Sen said in a speech at the inauguration of a ring road around the capital, Phnom Penh, addressing the European Union and referring to Cambodia’s EBA status.

“If you want the opposition alive, don’t do it and come and hold talks together,” he said.

EBA is an initiative aimed at helping poorer countries. It can be withdrawn in the case of serious violations of human rights conventions.

The EU threatened to withdraw the trade preferences because of a crackdown on the opposition ahead of the July election, which the EU condemned as not being credible.

Hun Sen, 66, who also marked 34th year of his premiership on Monday, said that he would not forgive those who had appealed to Western countries to cut aid to press his government, and said critics should get ready to flee abroad.

“People are prepared to flee, be prepared,” Hun Sen said.

“I won’t forgive them.”

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned 118 party members in 2017 at the request of the government after accusations that the party was plotting to take power with the help of the United States.

The party and the United States rejected any such plot.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha was released from prison in September after spending more than a year in jail on treason charges but remains under house arrest in Phnom Penh.

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Important news during the second week of January 2019

How Vietnam lost and China won Cambodia

But the question remains whether Cambodia is moving closer to China at the expense of Vietnam, or is the CPP moving closer to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the expense of the Vietnam’s Communist Party? Beijing is now offering the same party-to-party exchanges and “soft power” roles that used to be exclusive to Hanoi.

More civil servants and ministry officials are traveling to China on visits to observe how politics operates there. Most ministries have signed bilateral agreements to boost joint cooperation. Beijing has also funded new think tanks in Cambodia, and is even paying for Cambodian journalists to visit China to study alongside their Chinese counterparts.

Thanks to scholarship programs, more than 1,000 Cambodians have now studied at Chinese universities, many of whom will go onto hold positions of influence. Most are likely to return imbued with China’s outlook on world affairs, in which Vietnam often plays the role of adversary, especially in regards to the South China Sea.

In December, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged more support for youth exchanges programs when he met Hun Many, one of Hun Sen’s sons who serves as president of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, a CPP-aligned organization.

Another explanation of shifts in party-to-party relations between Cambodia and Vietnam is the supremacy of Hun Sen over the CPP. Analysts say that CPP grandees, like the late Chea Sim, the party’s president between 1991 to 2015, were avowedly pro-Vietnam.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng is another senior CPP official who is said to still have very close ties to Hanoi, though his control over the party is certainly not as significant as Hun Sen’s. The death or fading influence of such pro-Vietnam officials has allowed the CPP to rethink its foreign relations, analysts say.

Hun Sen (R) with Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who some analysts say could become the next prime minister. Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

Hun Sen (R) with Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

“At least since 2008, Hun Sen has held almost all the cards in the CPP. Hun Sen was initially balancing between Vietnam and China. His decision to move closer to China was backed by the CPP because Hun Sen effectively is the CPP,” says Chambers.

There are also clear changes in military-to-military relations as China’s armed forces form even closer relations with Cambodia’s – possibly making Vietnam’s military ties less important in the process.

The two sides now hold regular joint training exercises, dubbed “Golden Dragon”, and Beijing invites senior Cambodian defense officials on state visits. This has become even more important after Phnom Penh postponed, for an undisclosed time, joint training operations with the US military, which is forming increasingly closer ties to Vietnam’s armed forces.

In recent years, China has also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to support Cambodia’s military, including an additional US$130 million it provided last year to the defense sector. China also pledged US$2.5 million last year to help clear unexploded ordnance left behind by the Khmer Rouge, a donor area that used to be provided mainly by the US and Japan.

In November, this journalist co-authored a report for Asia Times on rumors that China was lobbying to build a naval base in southwest Cambodia, and correctly predicted the issue would be raised by senior US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, when they attended Asian conferences at the time.

Cambodian naval officers during a sea drill. Photo: Wikipedia

Cambodian naval officers during a sea drill. Photo: Wikipedia

Hun Sen and other senior Cambodian politicians have spent the last two months denying the allegation.

When he visited Vietnam in December, Hun Sen told his counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc that the report was “fake news, lying news and destructive news,” while repeating his oft-stated rebuttal that “the constitution of Cambodia does not allow any foreign military bases in the Kingdom.”

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Cambodian PM dedicates monument to his defeat of Khmer Rouge

ក្នុងចំណោមមេដឹកនាំពិភពលោក គ្មានមេដឹកនាំស្រឡាញ់ជាតិណាដែលគេយកថ្ងៃកំចាត់ជាតិសាសន៍គ្នាឯងមកធ្វើជាមរតកឈ្នះឈ្នះនោះទេ។ មេដឹកនាំខ្មែរពីអតីតមានដូចជាព្រះបាទជ័យវរ្ម័នទី២ព្រះអង្គយកឈ្នះលើអាណានិគមជ្វានៃនគរសៃលេន្ទ្រៈ ព្រះបាទជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧ ព្រះអង្គយកឈ្នះលើនគរចម្បា និងព្រះបាទនរោត្តមសីហនុ យកឈ្នះលើអាណានិគមបារាំង។ ចំណែកលោកហ៊ុនសែនវិញនាំបរទេសចូលស្រុកមកវាយកំចាត់គ្នាឯង ហើយលើកគុណសម្បត្តិថាខ្លួនឯងជាអ្នកវាយឈ្នះលើខ្មែរគ្នាឯង។ តែជាក់ស្តែងបរទេសវៀតណាមបានប្រឌិតរឿងចាប់ពីលេខសូន្យគ្រប់យ៉ាងដើម្បីបំភ្លៃនិងលាងខួរក្បាលកូនខ្មែរជំនាន់ក្រោយតាមរយៈហ៊ុនឈើតរបស់ខ្លួន។

Among world leaders, no nationalist leader who takes advantage of winning their own race as the winning legacy at all. Past great leaders of Cambodia (Khmer Kingdom) such as Jayavarman II, He defeated over Java of Sailendra kingdom, King Jayavarman VII, He defeated Champa kingdom, and King Norodom Sihanouk, He defeated France colonial. For Hun Sen, he brought foreigner to invade the country to defeat his own comrades, and bestowed himself as the winner over his own nationals. Actually, Vietnam (foreigner) has invented and rewritten new story starting from zero(scratch) to manipulate and brainwash Cambodian younger generations through their tamable puppet.

Cambodian PM dedicates monument to his defeat of Khmer Rouge


Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures to the Win-Win Memorial during its opening ceremony in Prek Ta Sek village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Cambodia’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen has inaugurated a monument marking the 1998 end of the threat from the communist Khmer Rouge movement, which ruinously ruled the country in the late 1970s and then carried on a guerrilla war. (Heng Sinith/Associated Press)By Sopheng Cheang | APDecember 29, 2018


Op-Ed: Washington Post

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Long-serving Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday inaugurated a monument marking the 1998 end of the threat from the communist Khmer Rouge movement, which ruinously ruled the country in the late 1970s and then carried on a guerrilla war.

The monument just north of Phnom Penh, the capital, is dedicated to what Hun Sen called his “Win-Win Policy,” which saw the last two top Khmer Rouge leaders surrender in December 1998, eliminating the group as a political force and security threat.

Hun Sen, in his supreme military commander’s uniform of a five-star general, said in a two-hour speech that he had “joined with other leaders and the people to turn our pitiful soil that used to be a killing zone into a safe land.”

But the monument’s highlighting the activities of Hun Sen makes clear that it is also a celebration of his legacy. The base of the 54-meter (177-foot) -tall structure has sculpted panels depicting various scenes in his life, including him sitting in a circle of villagers eating rice, leading a group of soldiers out of a forest and lecturing in front of a blackboard.

In the nationally televised speech to a crowd that officials claimed numbered 40,000, Hun Sen said the peace he helped achieve in 1998 helped unite the country “for the first time ever in its history,” and brought peace and economic prosperity.

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What’s happening for 7 January 2019?

Spending much time of my life to monitor the Vietnam’s policy over Cambodia. The outraged condemnation over the Vietnam’s invasion in Cambodia in 7 January 1979 was very out-bursting. During that time, the UNs, Cambodian people, and international community except Russia, had joint in solidarity to refuse legitimacy of Vietnam over their liberation and humanitarian claim over the brutal regime of Pol Pot whom established and nourished by Vietnam at the beginning. With the patron of Russia alone has weakened Vietnam both governance and economic effort until the Vietnam communist congress adopted a resolution to change policy from centralized-communism politburo to diversified-one party state doi moi policy. It is noted that the pre-colonial and post-colonial don dien policy have been achieved with the new adopted doi moi during the cold war period. Doi Moi literally means “new innovation” in which Vietnam opened its door to the Western world by accepting some conditions (but focusing on national interests) including the withdrawal of Vietnamese military from Cambodia. But the mix use of don dien with doi moi has been strongly embedded, and Vietnam’s interest first has clearly exposed during this 7 January 2019. According to RFA, the news outlet of Vietnam claimed about King of Cambodia and Hun Sen agreed to add more public holidays into its calendar such as:
  • Recognize the date on June 21, 1978 as the date that Hun Sen came across the border to request assistance from Vietnam to help Cambodia.
  • Recognize the date on January 7, 1979 as the date that Vietnam helped liberating Cambodia from the brutal regime of Pol Pot with the joint effort by Cambodian force.
  • Recognize the date on December 29, 1999 as the date of win-win policy that internal fighting was ended.
This claim has come amid Hun Sen’s kicking back of democracy principle embedded in Cambodia since the presence of United Nations’s first national democratic election in 1993 under the provision of Paris Peace Agreement of October 23, 1991. His new outrageous political manoeuvring is to dissolve the opposition party CNRP, to arrest and jail its leader Kem Sokha, to distribute those seats elected by the people voters to his own party, and to band 118 people not to involve in politics right for five years. This new authoritarian approach has been a failure on the face of Hun Sen after there are uproar condemnation by the Cambodian people and international community, and his present government is operating as neither “de jure” nor “de facto” government and illegitimate. Hence, Vietnam doesn’t care about this failure, but Vietnam can still undertake its doi moi space in Cambodia space without limitation.

What the opposition and democratic movements shall do next?

The voice of Cambodian youths (bulge) and international community are sufficient for all democrats to claim back democracy and rule of law in Cambodia. The new development in Cambodia by Hun Sen such as building win-win monument and celebrating this upcoming January 7 day are considered as an abstraction and an intended distraction. The CNRP should not loss sight to unify and inspire the EU, America, Australia, Canada etc. especially Cambodian people to stand up firm to this concurrent one-party state authoritarian Hun Sen.

Note that during Doi Moi, Vietnam could assess to both China and USA for its interests in their effort to stirring up Cambodia, but this time, Vietnam’s interest in Cambodia is likely an exit one as their tamed persons in Cambodia are useless among Cambodian people and international community.

New win-win monument built before January 7, 2019 in Cambodia. Courtesy: Facebook
Tượng đài toàn dân chiến thắng = Monument of the entire people won
(នេះជាវិមានឈ្នះៗនៅប្រទេសវៀតណាម នៅកណ្តាលទីក្រុងព្រះត្រពាំង ខេត្តត្រាវិញទឹកដីកម្ពុជាអតីតទឹកដីកម្ពុជា), Courtesy: facebook
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