In memories and tributes towards Dr. Benny Widyono who passed away at 83 on 16 March 2019

ថ្ងៃនេះខ្ញុំសូមសំដែងនូវសេចក្តីសោកស្តាយនិងចូលរួមកាន់មរណៈទុក្ខដល់ក្រុមគ្រួសារនិងញាតិមិត្តលោកបណ្ឌិត Benny Widyono ដែលបានលាចាកលោកនេះកាលពីខែមីនា ១៦ ឆ្នាំ២០១៩។ លោកធ្លាប់ជាលេខាប្រចាំប្រទេសកម្ពុជារបស់អគ្គលេខាធិការអង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិក្នុងសម័យអ៊ុនតាក់ UNTAC។

តែអ្វីដែលខ្ញុំចង់លើកមកបង្ហាញគឺវគ្គមួយក្នុងសៀវភៅដ៏ល្បីរបស់លោក រាំក្នុងស្រមោល Dancing in Shadow ក្នុងទំព័រទី១១៨ដល់១៨១ គឺការដែលល្បិចនយោបាយឌីហ្វីត DIFID (Divide, Isolate, Finish, Integrate, Develop) របស់លោកហ៊ុនសែនក្នុងការប្រឡេះលោកសម-រង្ស៊ីនិងទ្រង់សិរីវុឌចេញពីហ៊ុនស៊ិនប៊ិចដែលធ្វើអោយបក្សមួយនេះចុះខ្សោយដល់សព្វថ្ងៃ។ តែអ្វីដែលសំខាន់ពេលនោះគឺមានកឹម-សុខាម្នាក់ដែរ ក្នុងតំណែងលោកជាសមាជិកសភាពីគណបក្សព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាដើម្បីអភិវឌ្ឍន៍របស់លោកតាសឺនសានបានជំទាស់ក្នុងការបណ្តេញលោកសមរង្សុីចេញពីសភាទាំងបំពានច្បាប់នេះ។ ដូច្នេះគោលការណ៍សមរង្សុី-កឹមសុខាជាមនុស្សតែមួយនៃគណបក្សសង្រ្គោះជាតិបច្ចុប្បន្នពិតជាឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងឧត្តមគតិរួមរបស់អ្នកទាំងពីរកាលពី២៧ឆ្នាំមុន។

រៀបរៀងអត្ថបទដោយលោកសេង សុភ័ណ

Today, I would like to express deep sadness and share condolence with family and friends of Dr. Benny Widyono who passed away this March 16, 2019. He was the key secretary and UN’s official during UNTAC in Cambodia.

But what I am most impressed is his book “Dancing in Shadow” in page of 118-181 illustrating the political tactic of Hun Sen’s DIFID (Divide, isolate, finish, develop) to divide and isolate Sam Rainsy and Prince Sirivudh which has weakened FUNCIPEC ever-since. But the most exotic memoir is Kem Sokha who was MP from Buddhist Development Party of Sen San stood up to protest in the parliament for this illegal act of expelling Sam Rainsy from the Parliament and stripped off his Parliamentary impunity. So, the principle of Sam Rainsy-Kem Sokha is ONE of modern CNRP has been historically identical of their ideal since 27 years ago.

Original source for your reference: UH Press

Alvin Lim

Benny Widyono’s Dancing in Shadows

Book Review, University of Hawai!i

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Alvin Lim is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Hawai‘i. Lim received his B.A. (Hons) and M.A. from the National University of Singapore, and taught Philosophy for three years at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Widyono, Benny. (2008). Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge, and the United Nations in Cambodia. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Benny Widyono’s gripping!Dancing in Shadows is a memoir of his peacekeeping and diplomatic work in Cambodia: in 1992-93 he served as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia’s (UNTAC) Provincial Director of Siem Reap; subsequently in 1994-97 he served as the UN Secretary-General’s Political Representative to the Royal Government of Cambodia (2008, p. xxvii).

Dancing in Shadows begins on an unexpected note with! Ben Kiernan’s foreword that focuses on the role of Indonesians in resolving the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, paving the way for UNTAC. Kiernan notes a July 1980! meeting at Phnom Penh’s! Noor Al-Ihsan mosque between Cham genocide survivors and!Indonesian journalists. Their pioneering reportage triggered a change in Indonesian policy towards Cambodia which eventually led Indonesia to guide the warring Cambodian factions to reach a peace settlement (ibid., pp. xvii-xxiv).

This largely unknown thread of Cambodia’s tortured recent history nicely introduces the role of Widyono, himself an Indonesian citizen; for the key Indonesian role in the Cambodian peace process is also reflectedn Widyono’s subsequent participation in UNTAC. The Indonesian-Cambodian connection does not end there: Kiernan (ibid., p. xix) and Widyono (ibid., pp. 23-24) both note Indonesia’s and Cambodia’s mirrored experiences with politicide and genocide. This tragic mirroring is not just an academic observation for Widyono, as his ethnic Chinese heritage subjected him and his family to General Suharto’s anti-Chinese policies (ibid., p. xxix).

The key contribution of Dancing in Shadows is found in Widyono’s critique of the Cambodian peace process. Unlike other academics, he was actually part of UNTAC’s top administration, and enjoyed a privileged perspective of the mission’s ultimate failure in Cambodia. In Widyono’s view, UNTAC’s ultimate failure stemmed from two significant flaws in the 1991 Paris Agreements. First, the Agreements legitimized Pol Pot’s genocidal Khmer Rouge faction; second, the Agreements downgraded the status of Hun Sen’s្្ State of Cambodia (SOC) regime, disregarding its extensive administrative and military control over most of Cambodian territory (ibid., p. 35). These problems would adversely affect UNTAC’s subsequent performance. Not only did the Khmer Rouge pose a significant military challenge to UNTAC; UNTAC also found itself incapable of asserting its nominal authority over the SOC’s apparatuses of power (ibid., p. 42).


Widyono is highly critical of UNTAC’s performance, accusing it of “shaping and perpetuating the Cambodian tragedy” (ibid., p. xxvii). Problems brought by UNTAC onto itself include its slow deployment; a crippling lack of Khmer-language speakers in most of its components (ibid., p. 18); and the shameless flaunting of wealth and lack of discipline among UNTAC’s peacekeepers. This last problem generated xenophobic anti-UNTAC sentiment among Cambodians, triggering violence and other security problems (ibid., pp. 100-101). Structurally, UNTAC’s Civil Administration component failed to exert control over the SOC government. Widyono notes that this failure was inevitable given the fact that UNTAC’s Civil Administration was only allocated 200 officers to control the SOC government’s 200,000 (ibid., p. 59).

More seriously, Widyono observes that UNTAC coddled the Khmer Rouge, and this leniency emboldened the Khmer Rouge’s resistance. Having identified UNTAC’s weakness of will, the Khmer Rouge refused to lay down its arms, leading to the collapse of the demobilization of Cambodia’s factional armies (ibid., pp. 77-78). One important consequence of this, Widyono notes, emerged 5 years later on 5 July 1997, when a bloody battle erupted between the (un-demobilized) armed militias of! Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Front Uni National Pour un Cambodge, Independent, Neutre, Pacifique et Cooperatif (FUNCINPEC) (ibid., pp. 253-254).

As the 1993 elections neared, the Khmer Rouge tried to disrupt the electoral process with military attacks on UNTAC. Its military resistance caused UNTAC great difficulty. Under the Paris Agreements, the SOC army was supposed to be demobilized, and hence was not legally obliged to protect UNTAC (ibid., p. 106) from the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge also continued with its program of ethnic cleansing, massacring 124 Vietnamese civilians in Siem Reap’s Chong Kneas floating village on March 10, 1993. This massacre succeeded in forcing 21,000 Vietnamese, including second and third generation residents of Cambodia, to flee to Vietnam. Widyono notes Sihanouk’s and UNTAC’s shameful indifference to the plight of Cambodia’s Vietnamese residents (ibid., pp. 96-98).

Despite the massive international involvement, the 1993 elections would prove meaningless. Even though FUNCINPEC won, CPP pressure led Sihanouk to declare a power-sharing government, with Hun Sen and Ranariddh as co-premiers, and the CPP having more seats in the cabinet (ibid., pp. 129-131). During this post-UNTAC period, Widyono returned to Cambodia as the UN Secretary-General’s Political Representative to the Royal Government. From this vantage point, Widyono observed the strengthening of the CPP’s hegemony and the corresponding failure of FUNCINPEC to subvert the CPP’s extensive patronage networks. Hun Sen later confided in Widyono that the CPP had been successfully modeled after the hegemonic organization of Indonesia’s GOLKAR and Malaysia’s UMNO political parties (ibid., pp. 146-147).

Also of interest in Dancing in Shadows are Widyono’s personal observations of Hun Sen, Sihanouk and Ranariddh. ! Hun Sen emerges as a remarkably determined individual who used his leadership skills and abilities to build a loyal and effective patronage network unparalleled in Cambodia. Ranariddh’s corresponding lack of effective leadership skills, coupled with his delusions of grandeur, would exacerbate the fury of the FUNCINPEC rank-and-file when he failed to adequately reward them for their support (ibid., p.128  EXPLORATIONS a graduate student journal of southeast asian studie 216). His failure to reward past loyalty would trigger a crippling tide of FUNCINPEC defections to the CPP.

In addition, even though Ranariddh was nominally the First Prime Minister, he was happy to let Second Prime Minister Hun Sen handle the drudgery of actual government leadership (ibid., p. 154). Ranarridh’s inaction directly strengthened Hun Sen’s grip on power, and eventually led him to be eclipsed by opposition leader Sam Rainsy. Overseeing all this was the increasingly impotent King!Sihanouk, filled on one hand with resentment against Hun Sen and Ranariddh, and on the other with grudging admiration at Hun Sen’s skillfulness in outmaneuvering himself and his son (ibid., pp. 160-161).

As noted earlier, in 1997 the tensions between the CPP and FUNCINPEC exploded in a military confrontation between their militias. Widyono, who had since retired from the UN, interprets the battle as having been planned by both sides. Given the documentary evidence, FUNCINPEC was probably planning a coup d’etat as alleged by the CPP; but the CPP itself had clearly planned its attack on FUNCINPEC, and hadn’t been taken by surprise as claimed (ibid., pp. 256-258).

Interestingly, Ranariddh’s subsequent pardon and return from exile illustrates the curious circulation of personalities on Cambodia’s political stage. Widyono cites the assassinated FUNCINPEC MP Om Rasdy’s analogy: “Cambodia resembled a play that lacked enough actors. Consequently, each of the main players had to assume many roles.” (ibid., p. 147) Over the next decade, Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy would periodically find themselves exiled and pardoned; Hun Sen would remain at the apex of power, and Sihanouk would slowly but noisily fade from the stage, eventually abdicating in favor of the apolitical Prince Sihamoni (ibid., p. 279).

Upon his return to Cambodia for a visit in January 2005, Widyono observed the fruits of the country’s welcome economic growth. After the final defeat of the Khmer Rouge, Siem Reap experienced a massive tourism boom, leading to wealth for local entrepreneurs. However this economic boom also directly led to an expansion of the patronage system: for example, almost all the new hotels were owned by CPP cadres. Phnom Penh experienced a similar economic boom: new commercial activity can seen in the establishment of private universities, luxury hotels and restaurants, shops selling pirated CDs and DVDs, and drivers offering rides on tuk tuks and motos. However, the economic boom in urban Cambodia has to be contrasted with the continued poverty of rural Cambodia. The plight of the Cambodian underclass has been exacerbated by the property boom, for rising property values have led to predatory land grabbing across Cambodia. Hun Sen’s angry denunciations against the CPP cadres responsible for land grabbing have yet to stop the problem (ibid., pp. 284-286).

Dancing in Shadows would indeed have been improved with an analysis of these other personalities in Cambodia’s constellation of political players. Widyono offers occasional tantalizing hints of his encounters with these personages, and in his administrative and diplomatic capacity he would certainly have an insider’s knowledge of their roles in Cambodia’s networks of power relations. An understanding of this constellation of personalities is particularly urgent given the alleged involvement of high-powered individuals in problems ranging from corruption to land grabbing.

Being a political memoir written in engaging prose, Dancing in Shadows offers an insider’s view into a critical moment in Cambodia’s recent tumultuous history. As such, it is an invaluable resource for all interested observers and students of Cambodia, undergraduate and graduate alike.

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