Politics must mature

Written by Sophan Seng
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Dear Editor,

Many observers have assumed current transitional Cambodian politics will gradually become mature. But I believe this is an obscure statement. If we say the tendency of Cambodian politics is towards maturity within a cave of immaturity, this might be more plausible. However, what we cannot fathom is: How bad is this cave?

Some Cambodian people and major incumbent Cambodian politicians will, not reluctantly, concur that they are very glad as a result of many new emerging things that they didn’t have during the Pol Pot period. This statement is logical, but even wise people might not see that it is still important to develop Cambodia’s political maturity.

Pol Pot came to power with the intention of restructuring Cambodian society to build a new, utopian, agrarian society. The regime’s approach has become globally recognised as “year zero”. So how wise and good can we be when the present emerging development is pragmatically compared to the “year zero” of Pol Pot? Anything now is socially, economically, politically unmatched to those of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The current Cambodian hybrid Khmer Rouge trial has solemnly proclaimed its primary mission is to enhance national reconciliation, to help heal Cambodians’ [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)], and to eliminate the culture of impunity. Cambodian people should not be easily exploited by the politically orchestrated attempt to disfavour the Khmer Rouge and favour the so-called Khmer Rouge liberators. In reality, we should try and achieve some insight and understanding of the fact that while the Khmer Rouge were communist, the Vietnamese who liberated us from the Khmer Rouge were also communist. They both are communist by origin. Contemporary Cambodian politicians and people have to protect themselves from both of these two disadvantaged political influences with the overall intention of truly democratising Cambodia, developing ourselves to appreciate this new political trend and nourishing the maturity of political leaders and their followers.

Regarding the political parties, no distinction can be made between government party and opposition party. These two national political parties are interdependent and inseparable. The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) can legitimise themselves in front of the Cambodian people as well as international communities because of the Sam Rainsy Party. Similarly, the Sam Rainsy Party can have a stage to test the weaknesses and strength of their future leadership, or that of the CPP. For example, their current legal movement to reject the result of election was a brave performance.

The Cambodian people, both old and young, are observers, referees and owners of this social contract. They should not be careless and allow an imbalance of power between government and opposition to continue to happen. If such an imbalance is not dangerous per se, it is surely not compatible with the principle of liberal democracy.

Sophan Seng
Ph.D student of political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2008090421525/National-news/Politics-must-mature.html

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Silent behaviour

Written by Sophan Seng
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Dear Editor,

Your recent news item titled “Good Karma for Sale” triggered my thoughts on the silent behavior of Cambodian people. Though the majority of the Cambodian population is Buddhist, they have only slightly learned Buddhist principles.

Over decades of social upheaval, Cambodian people seem to have fallen into a numb corner. This is a good chance for the Cambodian elite to take advantage of them. In term of economics, the Cambodian people are just enjoying the emergence of new buildings, roads and bridges. In term of politics, Cambodian people are satisfied with peace and social stability. This materialistic hard infrastructure blinds the Cambodian people to the all-important scene behind, the crucial soft infrastructure.

I don’t want to define current Cambodian politics as Abraham Kaplan said: “Politics is the redistribution of bandits.” But I prefer Gergen’s political thought: “A politician is a person who projects, motivates and rationalises the public for personal gain”.  World academic scholars have observed and concluded that many so-called authoritarian countries have adapted their strategies to receive the ideas of good governance, decentralisation and transparency, as well as to liberalise their national economics, with the intent of extending their power.

It makes sense for post-conflict Cambodian society to appreciate peace, stability, new roads paved, new schools and temples built, and modern cities urbanized. Generally, Cambodian people including Buddhist monks regard political leaders as the well-born persons who can legitimately own the power and wealth they have. Very often, they will not hesitate to beg them for donation. Very intelligent Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has never hesitated to utter his political rhetoric “culture of sharing”. Of course, this is the right time for political leaders to pursue this rhetoric.

Buddha addressed the way to go about donations in three thoughtful stages in order to plant wisdom into his audience. Firstly, concentrate on the right giver, secondly concentrate on the right receiver, and thirdly concentrate on the right material given. Significantly, the right material has not been given, in the same way as the crucial soft infrastructure has always been hidden.

For the long-term future and sustainable development, Cambodia should pursue the principle of every Cambodian citizen being offered the chance to get rid of this silent behavior, and political leaders should share the wisdom of reducing personal gain for the sake of collective national interests. Though the boat can move directly to the destination by a boat-hooker (leader), but without the competent boat-paddlers (peoples), the boat will inevitably be sunk.

Sophan Seng
Ph.D student of political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Original Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2008082821417/National-news/Silent-behaviour.html

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Cambodia Blogging

Last night I slept late. I was inspiring by the new discovery in wordpress blog. It is the easy compact software for all bloggers to enjoy. I was not hesitate to take this chance to be creative though I am really drowsy and busy with study.

During blogging, my mind wandered far and near especially thought about Cambodian peoples at Cambodia: How many of them who can access to internet? How many of them who can blog? How many of them who can use PC or MAC? And how many of them who know about the latest technology development of computer? More than 80% of Cambodian peoples are farmer. They are living in destitute, suburb, rural and remote areas. Significantly, major of them cannot access to electricity, clean water, and health care center.

In developed countries as well as some developing countries, internet has become their daily gadget and it is the magic buttons that their wishes can be unbelievably fulfilled. They buy, sell, communicate, entertain, and study just by clicking the buttons on the computer. And internet is the world wide web connectors for them to personalize as well as to globalize themselves. They can reach far away from their tiny room through video, audio, map, pictures, and online chat. Many peoples have delved themselves to trust and worship computer as well as internet as their new religion. Many internet surfers can accumulate wealth and strong social network. Many of them can seek their partner and become cute couple eventually, incredibly.

Look back to Cambodia, the trend is on the track. But it is really a creeping trend. However, many Cambodian young children are very innovative and creative. Though they don’t have sufficient tools to get into computer and internet, but there are mushrooming users. Many blogs are built and online communicate is so popular among them.

The future will be shed in light by our young generation who will not only the players of internet, but we further hope for their new inventing of modern technology. Cambodian young generation will absolutely not different from their ancestors who were very creative and urbanized such as several huge temples were astonishingly constructed entirely Cambodian Empire, those are rapidly attracting millions of people worldwide.

The pride and hope of future Cambodia doesn’t fall upon the past, the glory of Angkor Wat, but the competent younger generation, well-trained children. They are the responsible future architect and catalysts!

Sincerely,

Sophan P. Seng

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