WHO GAVE THAILAND’S EX-PM YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA A CAMBODIAN PASSPORT?

  • Officials insist Thailand’s former leader Yingluck Shinawatra hasn’t been given a Cambodian passport
  • So how she used one to register a company in Hong Kong is a mystery that points to the ‘highest levels’, observers say

Op-Ed: South China Morning Post (SCMP)

BY PHILA SIUJOHN POWER 26 JAN 2019

Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

The news that Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is in possession of a Cambodian passport poses a troubling question for many of her new-found compatriots: who gave it to her? The self-exiled leader, who fled Thailand in August 2017 before being sentenced to prison on what she says are politically motivated charges, used a Cambodian passport to register as the sole director of a Hong Kong company incorporated in August last year – as revealed by the South China Morning Post.


The red passport emblazoned with the words “Kingdom of Cambodia” in gold might not be what anyone would expect Yingluck Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, to present at an immigration checkpoint.
With visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to just 54 destinations worldwide, it is ranked among the least powerful passports in the world by the annual Henley Passport Index, at a lowly No. 84 out of 104.
Officially, anyone with US$300,000 to spare can pick up a Cambodian passport. That is what Cambodia requests as an investment before handing out its travel document.
Yingluck, in self-exile since 2017, before Thailand’s supreme court sentenced her to five years in prison for mishandling rice subsidies, used a Cambodian passport to register herself as sole director of a Hong Kong company incorporated last August last year, according to official filings. The disclosure, in a South China Morning Post story this month, added to the theory that she fled Thailand via Cambodia.
It also put the spotlight on the ease with which the world’s wealthy can obtain new passports or residency in a new country if they have the cash it takes – anything between US$100,000 and US$2 million.
This can all be above board and properly regulated, with thorough screening of applicants. In some cases, however, getting a new passport has been said to be as easy as shopping online, and the individual does not even have to show up in person.
Some get new passports by bribing officials.
“For some investors, they want to move to somewhere else because they truly want to do business there,” said Benny Cheung Ka-hei, director of the Goldmax Immigration Consulting in Hong Kong. “But then of course, some of the rich Chinese have too much money to spare and have no problems spending a few million dollars on foreign passports. They want foreign passports as protection, and also for showing off.”

Source SCMP

But Phnom Penh has denied that Yingluck holds a Cambodian passport and observers question whether there has been a royal decree conferring citizenship on her – something that is required of all other foreigners.

Cambodia denies it issued a passport to former Thai prime minister

Mu Sochua, vice-president of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, said she did not believe Cambodian officials’ claims they were not aware of Yingluck’s Cambodian passport.

“There are many, many issues in terms of legality and sovereignty as far as Cambodia is concerned … where is the royal decree? No citizenship can be issued without a royal decree, and to get a passport from any country, you need to be a citizen of that country,” said Sochua, who fled her own country in 2017.

Mu Sochua, vice-president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Photo: Reuters

Sochua demanded Cambodia’s strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen investigate.

“Isn’t he concerned that an ex-prime minister holds a passport of his country? And if he has not ordered it, then who has? Who ordered the passport to be issued?

“For Yingluck, an ex-minister of Thailand, I don’t think an official at the Ministry of Interior or the Foreign Ministry would dare to [issue it] – even if she wanted to buy it for a million dollars.”

Sochua believes Yingluck received the passport because of her ties with Hun Sen. Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former prime minister of Thailand in self-imposed exile, used to be an adviser to the Cambodian government.

Cambodia launches crackdown on passports

“The Thai junta government has collaborated with the Hun Sen regime in deporting Cambodian political asylum seekers to Cambodia. The question is: will the Thai junta ask Hun Sen to seek the deportation of Yingluck if and when she travels with the Cambodian passport?” added Sochua.

Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at the Occidental College in Los Angeles, said the decision to grant Yingluck a passport must have come from “the highest levels” of the Cambodian government.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo: AP

Continue reading “WHO GAVE THAILAND’S EX-PM YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA A CAMBODIAN PASSPORT?”
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Should Western countries impose sanctions on Cambodia?

Op-Ed: Asia Times
Kongkea Chhoeun Cambodian politics reached a new boiling point with the arrest of the opposition leader last week. Kem Sokha was handcuffed in the middle of the night in his house and accused of “treason” by the government.

Foreign governments have reacted to the arrest, and members of the opposition have called for them to take action against the Cambodian government. The questions now are these: What actions should the West take? And how tough should these actions be?

Political conditions in Cambodia have worsened in recent years, most notably after local-government elections in June this year. The 2013 national elections and the June 2017 local-government elections threatened the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Among a range of actions to weaken the opposition, in July this year, despite a boycott by the opposition, the CPP passed an amendment to the Law on Political Parties. The amendment allowed the government to ban convicted political leaders from running for political office, while  the parties run by them would be disbanded altogether. Sam Rainsy, the former opposition leader, had to resign from his Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) to save it from being dissolved.

Last week, the CPP regime jailed Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy’s successor, and charged him with colluding with a foreign power to topple the government. The accusation appears to be based mainly on a speech Kem Sokha made in 2013 to his supporters in Australia. At that time, he had boasted of the support he receives from Americans to advance his political career and unseat the CPP.

His arrest followed the government’s expulsion of a US-based non-governmental organization and the closures of The Cambodia Daily and local radio stations linked to Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

A number of foreign governments reacted promptly to the arrest. Australia and Japan expressed their concerns about the deteriorating political conditions in Cambodia and suggested that the CCP-led regime maintain a political environment favorable for a free and fair national election, to be held next July.

The US and the European Union went further, calling for the immediate release of Kem Sokha, but stopped short of announcing punitive measures if the government ignored their call.

China, however, opted not to pressure the Cambodian government and promised to stand by its side.

US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on September 12, 2017, sharply denying ‘extraordinary accusations’ that the US was involved in a plot to overthrown the government.

Members of the opposition are calling for the international community to take tough action against the Cambodian government, but have fallen short of prescribing specific actions. Nevertheless, it is customary for the opposition to seek international intervention when their political fortunes are under threat from the CPP-led government. Sam Rainsy called on the West to cut off aid and impose economic sanctions on Cambodia on many occasions in the past. Similar appealshave been made now in the aftermath of the arrest of Kem Sokha.

The question now is this: Should the West impose sanctions on Cambodia to restore political order?

Some countries, such as Japan, are certainly facing a dilemma, and their policy options are limited. The West and for that matter Cambodian citizens have to make a hard choice between accepting the status quo and potentially pushing Cambodia into China’s complete sphere of influence and wiping out the gains made in the past two decades in terms of economic development and democratization.

Slashing aid and imposing economic sanctions would definitely undermine Western countries’ past efforts to contribute to the development of Cambodia, which have been significant over the past two decades. They contributed to peace-building processes that  culminated in the October 1991 Paris Peace Accords. They aided the reconstruction of postwar Cambodia, channeling significant development assistance to the country. (Western aid accounted for more than 60% of the total in 2015.)

The United States’ and the EU’s special preferential trade agreements helped Cambodia develop its export sector, particularly the garment and footwear sector and related industries, which account for about 80% of the country’s exports.

The US extended Most Favored Nation status to Cambodia in 1996 and the Generalized System of Preferences last year. The EU extended its Everything but Arms scheme to the country in the early 2000s. Cambodia exported more than 60% of its products to the US and European markets in 2016.

Cambodia has also benefited from the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, but its exports to China accounted for only 6% of the total last year.

Garment workers walk in front of factories in Phnom Penh in October 2015 after government promises of wage increases fell short of their demands.

Thanks in part to Western assistance, the Cambodian economy has grown extraordinarily well over the past decades, averaging 7% per year since 1993 and helping poverty to fall more than 1 percentage point per year on average since 2003. Cambodia graduated from the status of a Least Developed Country in 2015.

In the event of Western economic sanctions, parts of the Cambodian export sector are most likely to collapse. In the short to medium terms, Cambodia is unlikely to be able to count on China to fill the vacuum left by the US and the EU, given that the two Asian countries are competitors in the global garment and footwear market.

Continue reading “Should Western countries impose sanctions on Cambodia?”

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Cambodia is confirming itself with weak national institution and strong political patrimonialism at the presence

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 92

This part (92) broadcasted by CMN Radio on Dec. 26-27, 2016, Mr. Sophan articulated on weak

Courtesy: SlidePlayer
Courtesy: SlidePlayer

institution in Cambodia that could lead to chaos and internal violence. This weak institution caused by authoritarianism leadership through lens of hybrid regime political leadership between democracy and communism. Observing from current Hun Sen leadership, he has likely adopted democracy through multiparty and election to fit his central power ambition. Also, he has likely adopted some sorts of communism to fit his central power ambition. For real democracy, the effort of leader is to endorse collective interest of the nation, rather than diffusing to personal interest and long lasting power projection. For pure communism, no multiparty conducting as well as no democratic election has ever operated, but those countries have been rigid in strengthening the rule of law and limiting the mandate of powerful top leaders. Cambodia has none of above leadership styles.

By reflecting the present viral distribution through social media of incident happening in Poipet, linking to recent racking down on civil society members and political opponent activists, the trend of weakening state’s institution to empower personal power and clan network shall result in social distrust, conflict and violence. This latest sign is a sign of failed state through operation of pseudo-democracy or hybrid regime endeavour in Cambodia.

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The effectiveness of leadership is to produce more leaders not more followers

Political Paradigm of Pragmatism from the Khmer Youth part 51

This part (51), Mr. Sophan Seng elaborated on good leaders who have always produced more leaders, not more HE Sam Rainsy 9followers. Theoretically, the concept broadens from family leadership, to community and nation leadership. Western philosophy as well as Cambodian philosophy exclusively boosts the importance of empowering youths and new members of community to be self-reliance and self-accountability. Khmer proverb says “young bamboo shoots are the backbone of future generations” is a testament of this basic human resource leadership.

Practically, at the juncture of Cambodia changes, political landscape has been inherited by hierarchy of upper power abused their own power boundary to advance for personal gains. Subsequently, the lower powers and bottom line citizens are tamed to be submissive and dependent. This type of leadership shall shrink this nation in the long term future.

To develop this nation for long term future sustainable growth, the attitude change is a must for all Cambodian citizens. But to achieve this mission pragmatically, we should consider the Khmer proverb “don’t bent the Srolao tree, don’t instruct the oldies”. So to change attitude of Cambodian people, we should begin with those children (kindergarten or grade 1).

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