‘Hun Sen is taking the piss’: Labor MP unloads on Cambodian dictator

Australia and the world made a promise to the Cambodian people, to stand up for human rights, peace and democracy. But 28 years on, the world has failed to keep its promise. Instead, Hun Sen’s regime has attacked human rights; killed democracy; given away the Cambodian people’s sovereignty; accumulated secret wealth overseasand undermined prosperity in our region.

ប្រទេសអូស្ត្រាលីនិងពិភពលោកបានសន្យាជាមួយប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរអោយក្រោកឈរឡើងដើម្បីការពារសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស សន្តិភាព និងប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។ តែ២៨ឆ្នាំមកនេះ ពិភពលោកបរាជ័យក្នុងការរក្សាកិច្ចសន្យារបស់ខ្លួន។ ជាការជំនួសវិញ របបលោកហ៊ុន-សែន បានវាយប្រហារទៅលើសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស សំលាប់លទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ បោះបង់ចោលអធិបតេយ្យភាពដែនដីរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ សន្សំទ្រព្យរាប់កោដិទុកនៅក្រៅប្រទេស និងបំផ្លិចបំផ្លាញសុខដុមរមនាក្នុងតំបន់។

‘Hun Sen is taking the piss’: Labor MP unloads on Cambodian dictator

James Massola
WAtoday, By James Massola, October 22, 2019 — 4.30pm

Jakarta: Federal Labor MP Julian Hill has launched an extraordinary attack on Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, declaring the dictator has sold out his country to China and warning the rising superpower is using the same tactics it used to militarise the South China Sea.

Mr Hill, whose seat of Bruce is home to one of the largest Cambodian-Australian populations, said that on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords that ended Cambodia’s long and bloody civil war, democracy was dying.

Chinese investment brings violence and drugs to once sleepy backpacking town in Cambodia

Billions of dollars of Chinese investment have transformed the town of Sihanoukville in CambodiaThirty-nine found dead in truck in Essex, UK

The MP recently spent a week in Cambodia on a self-funded study tour where he met with civil rights groups, union activists and the remnants of the now-banned political opposition.

“Australia and the world made a promise to the Cambodian people, to stand up for human rights, peace and democracy. But 28 years on, the world has failed to keep its promise,” he told Parliament.

“Instead, Hun Sen’s regime has attacked human rights; killed democracy; given away the Cambodian people’s sovereignty; accumulated secret wealth overseasand undermined prosperity in our region.”

In a speech that goes much further than the Labor leadership has been willing to in criticising the links between China and Cambodia, Mr Hill said “I don’t mean this as anti-China rhetoric … must be honest and say that I do not see what Hun Sen has let China do in Cambodia as positive”.

A woman is tended to after she was assaulted in a casino carpark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
A woman is tended to after she was assaulted in a casino carpark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.CREDIT:JAMES MASSOLA

“It [Chinese investment] may be couched as BRI [Belt and Road Infrastructure investment], but it shows all the signs of Hun Sen allowing the development of naval and air facilities to facilitate Chinese military planning. The same salami slicing tactics that the world saw in the South China Sea are at work.”

Sihanoukville, which has seen a huge amount of Chinese investment, is “like the fantasies about the Wild West of old. Casinos. Booze. Guns. Riches. Women”.

Sihanoukville is the worst place I have ever been.”

CAMBODIA

China’s takeover of Sihanoukville is almost complete, despite base row

Hun Sen won all 125 seats in the parliament in elections in July 2018 and has banned the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party. Former leader Kem Sokha is under house arrest in Phnom Penh, other leaders including Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua are in exile while many activists and politicians have been jailed.

Rainsy has recently threatened to return to Cambodia on November 9 to lead a popular uprising, prompting threats of violence and military intervention from Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 34 years.

Against this back drop, Hill said Australia’s current approach to “just keep talking” to the Hun Sen regime was insufficient.

Hill said Australia should ramp up sanctions against Cambodia, get back into the “information game” through Radio Australia and short wave radio and push back by using our considerable soft power resources.

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Cambodia’s addiction to dependency: NGOs and BFG

Cambodia’s addiction to dependency: NGOs and BFG

សង្ខេប៖ អ្នកនិព្វន្ធអត្ថបទនេះព្យាយាមចង្អុលប្រាប់អោយយើងដឹងថាកម្ពុជាកំពុងប្រឈមមុខតថភាពសង្គមដោយពឹងពាក់លើអ្នកដទៃទាំងស្រុង(dependency) ហើយកត្តាលេចធ្លោរពីរយ៉ាងគឺកំសោយរបស់អង្គការក្រៅរដ្ឋាភិបាល(NGOs)និងការធ្លាក់ខ្លួនទៅក្នុងអន្លង់មិត្តយក្សល្អបំផុតប៊ីអេសជី(BFG)។ ជាការសង្កេត អង្គការNGOsមួយភាគធំប្រតិបត្តិការដោយពឹងលើជំនួយបរទេសទាំងស្រុង មិនបានគិតអំពីនិរន្តរភាពខ្លួនឯងនៅពេលណាដែលជំនួយត្រូវបានបញ្ឈប់ឬខ្លះទៀតបោកជំនួយបរទេសដោយមិនបានបំពេញតាមឆន្ទៈបំណងនៃជំនួយឡើយ។ សម្រាប់ប៊ីអេសជីBFGវិញ រដ្ឋាភិបាលហ៊ុនសែនលើកនិយាយពីអធិបតេយ្យភាពជាតិដោយមិនចុះញ៉មជាមួយអឺរ៉ុបនិងអាមេរិក ដោយយកចិនជាមិត្តធំសំខាន់សម្រាប់ប្រើប្រាស់លុយជំនួយឥតលក្ខណ្ឌ(aids without strings)មកប្រើប្រាស់បន្តរំលោភអំណាចនិងគាបសង្កត់អ្នកតស៊ូប្រជាធិបតេយ្យទាំងអស់។

Leap Chanthavy

In recent weeks, Khmer Times has published several opinion and editorial pieces on Cambodia’s present-day international relations challenges. Those authors were passionate in crying foul over the possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms preferential treatment.

They pointed out the EU’s double standards in comparison to Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma. They also claimed that the US was complicit in this act of “social injustice”, and that it is sowing distrust between Cambodia and other Asean countries.

They rejected any US or EU criticism of human rights violations as interference in its affairs and proclaim that sovereignty and independence are paramount over EU demands.

Yet, these authors have forgotten that since the EBA is a ‘gift’ from the EU to Cambodia, then they have the right to review, take it away or do anything they want with it. They are not obligated to ensure it is fair or not when compared to similar ‘gifts’ to other recipient countries. In business, each commercial contract with a client cannot be the same.

Also, Cambodia has the right to give up the EBA if it thinks the conditions are too difficult and unfair as stated in some of Khmer Times’ editorials. But it chooses to cry and throw a tantrum.

Now that EBA suspension process is official, there are calls for Cambodia to be less dependent on foreign aid and assistance, the reason is so that its sovereignty and independence will not be held hostage by just a few partners.

Unfortunately, it is worrying how these authors can continue to deny that Cambodia has already been baited – hook, line and sinker – and has developed an addiction to dependency. It is already over-dependent on two accomplices.

Firstly, non-government organisations in Cambodia. Many NGOs do good work in Cambodia –they provide much-needed services and expertise for Cambodia’s social and economic development, environment, water sanitisation and more. They fill the gaps in Cambodia’s still developing institutions and systems. But it is also true that just as many behave like parasites, using Cambodia as the excuse to prolong their existence. In fact, many are indirectly or directly responsible for breeding dependency in Cambodia.

Many do not bother to work together but end up duplicating similar projects or areas of help. It is criminal how some NGOs even encourage ignorant and uneducated villagers to join protests, illegally occupy land and be interviewed for TV documentaries that paint their own country negatively.

Unfounded allegations? I know of Cambodians who have bragged about it. So much donor funds have been wasted on short term projects, countless reports and studies, and so many different solutions offered for the country.

Each NGO ought to have an exit strategy (and timeline) from Cambodia and to pass on knowledge, skills and expertise. If there is any conspiracy against Cambodia, this is it – not by design but a tragic confluence of selfish agendas.

Secondly, Cambodia’s “most trustworthy friend” (or other similar accolades bestowed by the big, friendly giant or “BFG”.

BFG has invested massively in Cambodia, particularly in Sihanoukville and across the country. Cambodia has benefited in the form of much-needed infrastructure, better connectivity and higher land values.

For Cambodia, the BFG is also a ready and willing source of legitimacy, acceptance and recognition that it cannot get elsewhere. But one must be blind to ignore the negative social impact of BFG’s dominance in the Kingdom. Like this newspaper I suspect it is owned by BFG if this is not published (a challenge and test!).

Cambodia runs a huge trade deficit to BFG (Cambodia buys more from BFG than the other way around). Nearly all BFG projects have very little benefit to small business and ordinary Cambodians, and mainly well-connected landowners benefit.

The increasing number of BFG businesses and shops in Sihanoukville and the capital cater only to BFG people.

Nearly all construction workers in these projects come from BFG (quite a number bring their families, setting up local shops and even local markets), with a small proportion hired locally in low-skilled menial labour work.

Most of the supply and construction materials for these projects are imported from BFG. So these projects actually help BFG export their unemployment (sending its construction workers overseas, who would otherwise not be able to find jobs back home), and BFG suppliers and construction companies benefit more than local Cambodian ones.

So for BFG grants for projects, the money actually flows back to BFG companies and people.

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Hun Sen has become staunch puppet of both China and Vietnam

This analysis, Mr. Sophan emphasized on drifting authoritarian of staunch puppet to both China and Vietnam of Prime Minister Hun Sen in which has possessed deadly side-effect like what was happening during the leadership of Pol Pot (1975-1979). Watching the full analysis in youtube.

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Nobody’s Puppet

The entrance to Kratie University flanked with Chinese and Cambodian flags in a photo posted on Facebook last week.
The entrance to Kratie University flanked with Chinese and Cambodian flags in a photo posted on Facebook last week.

 Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the politically divisive issue of his historic links with the Communist Party of Vietnam by saying he has never been a “puppet” of Hanoi but is a patriot who always resisted foreign influence on Cambodia.

“A number of people claim I am a person who was installed by Vietnam; they also said I am a puppet of Vietnam,” Hun Sen said in unreleased video footage of an interview with American filmmaker Robert Lieberman for his documentary “Angkor Awakens.”

Hun Sen denied the allegations in the interview.

About this series

This is the first of a multi-part series, based on a rare video interview with Hun Sen by American filmmaker Robert Lieberman for his 2016 documentary “Angkor Awakens.”

“The reality is that Hun Sen belongs to Cambodia [and] Cambodia needs independence,” the prime minister said. “I also hate those who want to have political influence on Cambodia – we don’t accept it.”

Lieberman conducted the September 24, 2015 interview in a New York hotel. VOA recently obtained the interview from the filmmaker.

For decades, the opposition – the once-formidable royalist party FUNCINPEC, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – have clung to this and other claims in order to undermine Hun Sen’s image and to tap into lingering anti-Vietnamese nationalism in Cambodia.

Many older opposition members come from an alliance of political groups led by then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk that was based on the Thai-Cambodian border. The alliance battled Vietnam during its occupation of Cambodia from 1978, the final days of the Khmer Rougeregime, to 1989.

Campaigning for Cambodia’s July 29 elections started July 7, but with the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) government’s decision to ban its only challenger, the CNRP, last year, the role of anti-Vietnamese politics has become somewhat of a moot point.

Hun Sen has mostly ignored the opposition’s accusations that he is a stooge of Hanoi while never hiding his good relations with Vietnam. These go back to 1977 when he and other Khmer Rouge defectors crossed into Vietnam. They were welcomed and trained to form a new Cambodian government that was installed by Vietnam after it ousted the Khmer Rouge regime in January 1979.

Hun Sen became foreign minister and then prime minister in 1985. He has held onto power since with political maneuvering that has won him democratic elections and by crushing opponents with brazen armed force.

FILE – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center right, and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, review an honor guard in Hanoi, on Dec. 20, 2016. (Tran Van Minh | AP)

Vietnam backs, not controls, Hun Sen rule

According to a recent publication by Stephen Heder, a respected Cambodia scholar, Hun Sen’s CPP and the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) have long had a “comprehensive relationship” in which they strongly support each other and defend their respective roles from any political challenges.

Hun Sen’s recent banning of the opposition and ongoing crackdown on independent media and civil society would thus have Hanoi’s support, he argues, though that doesn’t mean that Vietnam dominates in Cambodia.

“[K]eeping the CNRP out of power, if necessary by eliminating it from the contest for power, is a strongly shared CPP-CPV common interest that lies at the core of their comprehensive relationship and is most concretely manifest in the relationship between their security forces,” wrote Heder, a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “However, this and other CPP-CPV common interests do not add up to Vietnamese domination of Cambodia, as is shown, inter alia, by Cambodia’s refusal to toe Vietnam’s line on the South China Sea,” according to Heder.

In recent years, Hun Sen’s ever tightening embrace with China has been a point of growing media and diplomatic attention. Beijing has provided support and massive loans for his government as it abandoned Western-backed multiparty democracy, while Hun Sen in turn gives diplomatic support for China’s quest for dominance in the South China Sea region.

Demonstrators set fire to a monument marking Cambodian-Vietnamese friendship in Phnom Penh August 30, 1998. (Reuters)

Cambodia’s relations with Western countries have suffered since 2017, with cuts in donor support and the U.S. recently slapping sanctions on some Cambodian officials. In 2017 alone, China accounted for 30 percent of all investment in China, according to The Asean Post.

Ear Sophal, an associate professor at Los Angeles’ Occidental College who has researched Cambodia’s aid dependency and China’s global resource demand, said Hun Sen’s claim of resisting foreign influence was dispelled by the fact that Vietnam and, more recently, China gained control of large swathes of Cambodia’s natural resources, infrastructure and economy at the expense of ordinary Cambodians.

“Cambodia is now seen as having been for rent for a long time,” he said. “The renter is currently China. Perhaps we can say Vietnam owns Cambodia, while China rents Cambodia from Vietnam.”

Sophal added, “But [Hun Sen] does need more friends than only Vietnam and China – he needs to have Western friends too.”

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Cambodian people benefit from CPP’s policies

Op-Ed: Vietnam Plus | 20 July 2018
Hanoi (VNA) – Over the past five-tear term of the National Assembly, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has done a lot for the Cambodian people, helping raise public confidence in the upcoming general election.
The maintenance of  peace, political stability and security has created favourable conditions for Cambodia to continue recording new and greater achievements in socio-economic development and in the improvement of the people’s living standards.
Cambodia has emerged from a low-income country into a low-middle income nation, and is on the path towards the high-middle income status by 2030.

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Dedicating 27 articles today before Phnom Penh Post is absorbed away from its professionalism

 Op-Ed: The Phnom Penh Post

Phnom Penh Post Articles

Freedom and the challenges of teen pregnancy in Canada

Email from Canada,

FREEDOM is the lifeblood of human enterprise.  Free-market countries have higher standards of living, social development and productivity levels.  Some, though, contend that freedom is a double-edged sword.

Greater independence from parents and guardians can lead to the creation of a more open, more progressive society in which young people are free to engage their talents and amass practical knowledge.

But some say too much freedom can lead to undisciplined and incompetent adolescents.

In Canada, adolescents enjoy a wide array of freedoms, sexual, romantic and otherwise.  But high teen pregnancy and divorce rates have some policymakers worried.

Still, statistics show that national teen pregnancy rates have been declining.  A study from 1996 to 2006 showed a drop of 37 per cent, compared with a 25 per cent decline in the neighbouring US.

This doesn’t necessarily mean  teenagers are less sexually active.  In fact, a study found about 50      per cent of teens aged 16 and 17 engage in sexual activity.

These findings confirm what has become only too visible in daily life: teens holding hands, hugging, kissing and generally revelling in young love, all in public.

The teen-pregnancy study includes statistics on births, abortions and miscarriages.  The Canadian government views all three outcomes as having a negative impact on society.

If newborns survive the delivery process, teens are often unprepared to act as parents.  And miscarriages and abortions can result in various diseases and complications that can stall the mother’s education and development.

Teen pregnancy affects individuals, families and entire communities, placing a social and economic burden on the whole of society.

According to the study, the welcome decline in teen pregnancy can be attributed to an increase in awareness about sexual health and protection among teenage girls, as well as increasingly easy access to clinics and family planning counsellors.  Young women are using their freedom to make safer decis-ions, entering the adult world of sex and romance armed with more information and more confidence.

The story may be different in Cambodia.  Canada is fairly open to adolescent sexual activity and independent decision-making, but the issue is rarely talked about in Cambodia, where cultural conservatism and embedded tradition keep teenage sexuality under wraps.

For this reason, teen pregnancy rates are higher and show little sign of declining.  Until the Kingdom begins some sort of dialogue on teenage sexuality, young women in Cambodia will continue to have their education interrupted and their freedom curtailed.

About Sophoan Seng
I am the single son of a farming family from Siem Reap. I spent more than 10 years as a Buddhist monk. I graduated with a master’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii and am a PhD candidate at the same university.

My interests are social-capital research, the empowerment of young people for social change, and grassroots participation to developing democracy. I am a freelance and president of the Khmer Youth Association of Alberta. I can be reached at sophan@hawaii.edu

******

Rich Oil-Sands of Alberta, Canada

Emails from Canada: Sophoan Seng

Alberta is well known as a leading exporter of natural resources like timber and oil in Canada. Large foreign companies from the US have invested billions of dollars extracting oil and gas in this territory to make up for the shortage of oil for energy in their country. Oil deposits which are called “oil sands” are very distinctive from what is found in those oil rich countries such as Iran or Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, and the monitoring and regulations of this lucrative industry has never been neglected.

The official website of the Alberta government describes Alberta’s oil sands as the backbone of the Canadian and the global economy, adding it is a great buried energy treasure which has continuously supplied stable and reliable energy to the world. Oil sands are a naturally composed mixture of sand, clay or other minerals, including water and bitumen, which is a heavy and extremely thick, sticky oil that must be treated before it can be processed by refineries to produce usable fuels such as regular gasoline and diesel. Oil sands can be found in many locations around the globe, but the Athabasca deposit in Alberta is the largest and most developed and it has utilised the most advanced technology to produce oil.

Canada’s Facts and Statistics Department has ranked Alberta’s oil sands second after Saudi Arabia in terms of proven global crude oil reserves. In 2009, the total proven oil reserves were 171.3 billion barrels, or about 13 percent of the total global oil reserves, which is about 1,354 billion barrels. The net income in the fiscal year of 2009 for the Alberta government was more than US$3 billion in royalties from oil sands projects, which was lower than 2008 at $20.7 billion. But they project it to skyrocket and revenue to hit $15 billion in the next few years. Ultimately, about 99 percent of Alberta’s oil comes from oil sands.

Responsible corporations and the government’s clear goal and commitment have transformed Alberta oil sands into a blessing, not a curse. All approvals, licences, dispositions, permits and registrations relating to oil sands are required by Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development bodies. This enables the comprehensive task of handling oil sands investments.

However, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, University of Alberta scientist David Schindler told the public that the high levels of toxic pollutants in the Athabasca River were caused by oil sand mining. Schindler and his team of researchers found that oil sands development projects were contaminating the Athabasca River watershed area. The scientists found that seven “significant pollutants” were at levels that exceeded government guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. This new finding contradicted the government’s previous argument, which had always claimed that the naturally occurring bitumen had low levels of pollution.

After publishing in 2009 the first peer-reviewed paper from Schindler and his team, an ongoing political debate started, the story grabbed the public’s attention and a group of experts was given the job of finding the best solution for this rich oil sands industry. From public and private debates to ones in parliament and political institutions, a solution must be found to ensure the sustainable development of this non-renewable natural resource.

*******

Jobs and Employment in Canada

Letters from abroad

There is a popular saying that “to live is to work”, and while life is not all about work, the saying seems to hold true in Canada, Cambodia and around the world. Most people cannot live without a job, but the approach from the governments in various countries to the problem of unemployment differs greatly. It might be interesting for you to hear about the ways in which Canada’s government and private sector have intervened in order to help more citizens get jobs and keep the ones they have.

First, there is a growing number of job search agencies who help both new and experienced workers find jobs suitable to their educational background and experiences. Enrolled students learn about networking strategies, curriculum vitae, cover letters and interviewing skills. These agencies also partner with private groups and the government to launch job fairs, which exist in Cambodia on a smaller scale, in order to bring together employers and employees. In fact, I was employed as a result of my participation in a job fair.

Second, the government helps unemployed citizens by providing them with short-term support through both skills training and living expenses. Many unemployed workers are directly subsidized to allow them to maintain a level of strength and professionalism while they search for a new job. The money that funds this program, called the Employment Insurance (EI) program, was deducted from workers’ salary if they worked before.

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