An unexamined life is not worth living. ជីវិតដែលមិនបានពិនិត្យដិតដល់គឺរស់ទាំងគ្មានតំលៃ
True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. ចំណេះដឹកពិតប្រាកដមាននៅក្នុងការដឹងគឺអ្នកមិនដឹងអ្វីទាំងអស់។
To find yourself, think for yourself. ចង់រកខ្លួនឯងអោយឃើញ គិតខ្លួនឯង
When the debate is over, slander becomes the tool of the loser. ពេលការដេញដោលបានបញ្ចប់ ការជេរប្រមាទនឹងក្លាយទៅជាឧប្បករណ៌សម្រាប់អ្នកចាញ់។
Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ចូរប្រុងប្រយ័ត្នពីភាពឥតន័យពីជីវិតរវល់ជាប់ជានិច្ច។
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. ការអប់រំគឺជាដើមចមនៃអណ្តាតភ្លើង មិនមែនជាការដាក់បំពេញទៅក្នុងប្រឆេះទេ។
By all means marry: if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. និយាយគ្រប់បញ្ហានៃអាពាហ៌ពិពាហ៌៖ ប្រសិនបើអ្នករកបានភរិយាល្អ អ្នកនឹងមានសុភមង្គល តែបើអ្នករកបានភរិយាអាក្រក់ អ្នកនឹងក្លាយទៅជាអ្នកទស្សនៈវិជ្ជា។
There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance. មានអំពើល្អតែមួយគត់គឺវិជ្ជា និងអំពើអាក្រក់តែមួយគត់គឺអវិជ្ជា។
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. ខ្ញុំមិនអាចបង្រៀននរណាម្នាក់បានទេ ខ្ញុំអាចគ្រាន់តែធ្វើអោយពួកគេគិតប៉ុណ្ណោះ។
History doesn’t repeat itself, despite the thoughts of a certain German philosopher, and it certainly doesn’t manifest a dyad of tragedy and farce. If there is one iron law of history, it is of unintended consequences. Yet the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) assumes the first and neglects the latter.
For decades, the CPP, which came to power in 1979 after helping to overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime, has delighted in telling its citizens that Cambodia will fall back into the murderous, anarchic ways of the 1970s if the ruling party is ever removed from office. Just this week, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng warned that if the CPP were toppled from power, Cambodia would “fall into mud” like in the 1970s.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is often more explicit. “You must know that as long as I am the prime minister, I will not let them kill me. At any cost, I must protect peace and lives of Cambodian people,” he said on one occasion. On another, this January, he said that his government had “ended completely the chronic civil war” and brought “full peace” to Cambodia. “Cambodia, which used to be full of killing fields and dominated by the dictatorship regime and horrific genocidal regime, now becomes a land of freedom,” he said.
This narrative is well known among ordinary Cambodians, journalists and analysts, but it is worth reviewing every now and then, for it reveals a certain psychology of the ruling party. In the CPP’s framing of events, history certainly does appear to be repeating itself.
Rise of Khmer Rouge
In 1970, military commander Lon Nol seized power in a coup, supported though not necessarily materially backed by the US. But his brief republic was plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and five years later the Khmer Rouge violently took power, instigating a four-year tyrannous regime. Fast-forward to late 2017 and the CPP claimed that its main political opponent, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was also plotting a coup, and also with US backing – claims that have never been supported by a shred of evidence. The Supreme Court forcibly dissolved the CNRP in November 2017.
The CPP clearly wants to demonstrate that if it were ever ousted, it would be a repeat of Lon Nol’s coup of 1970 – the implication being that whoever removes the CPP from office would unleash the same disorder that allowed the Khmer Rouge to come to power, and then decades of civil war. Yet the CPP’s analogy of a repetitional history is sloppy. Today, there is no band of Maoist radicals waiting in the forests to seize power and unleash class warfare; there is no major geopolitical flagellation taking place in neighboring Vietnam and Laos; and Cambodians have known peace for decades now (remember Norodom Sihanouk’s regime only ruled for 17 years between independence in 1953 and Lon Nol’s coup in 1970).
Historical analogies are attractive for their simplicity and ease of understanding, but all too often they are widely off the mark. Yet they are revealing about the thoughts of the interlocutor.
Read between the lines and what the CPP is saying is that all that separates Cambodians from slipping back into the tyrannous brutality of the 1970s is the calming hand of the CPP
Pay attention to the latent meaning of the CPP’s warnings. What it basically assumes is that Cambodian society, at its heart, is brutish and violent and anarchic – bellum omnium contra omnes. Indeed, read between the lines and what the CPP is saying is that all that separates Cambodians from slipping back into the tyrannous brutality of the 1970s is the calming hand of the CPP – the Leviathan on the Mekong. (Indeed, modern Cambodian politics resemble the paying out of the Hobbes-Locke debates.)
If the party falls from power, it says, anarchy and murder will resume. It is a rather nihilistic view of the society it governs over. It is also rather arrogant and paternalist. Indeed, it assumes the worst instincts in its citizens and the finest in the government. Self-reverentially, the party sees itself as the force of order that prevails over a brutal state of nature.
Of course, all this might be described as just rhetoric, a clever (and quite effective) way of the CPP presenting itself as the noble savior and custodian of Cambodian peace – Cambodia itself, if the analogy is taken to its logical conclusion. Yet there is no reason to doubt that senior CPP politicians don’t believe in their own stories.