Michelle Obama Gets on Hun Sen’s Nerve
“And foundation for those values [equality, inclusiveness, fairness, and openness] is actually the focus of all your work here in Cambodia, and that’s education. When girls get educated, when they learn to read and write and think, that gives them the tools to speak up and to talk about injustice and demand equal treatment. It helps them participate in the political life of their country and hold their leaders accountable, call for change when their need and aspirations aren’t met. I’ve seen this process first hand back home in America. You probably watch what we go through, right? It’s not always easy for a government to meet the needs of its people. My husband certainly gets his share of criticism and disagreement, but we wouldn’t have it any other way – not in America, because voices and opinions of our people of our country, both men and women, from every background, from every walk of life, that’s what makes America strong and vibrant.”
US first lady Michelle Obama, 21 March 2015, Whitehouse Website
“I cannot afford to live on a teacher’s wage. If I did not also work as a moto driver, my family would not survive; there would not be enough money for us to eat.”
Kampong Chhnang High School math teacher Doung Socheattra, 6 October 2014, The Phnom Penh Post
“The content of these two laws [National Election Committee and Elections] has been critically and fully discussed, so the National Assembly today does not need to raise this or that point for debating anymore, as the working groups have done the in-depth work. So today is just a day for congratulations that the result [of last year’s political deal] is coming into shape [through] the two proposed laws.”
National Assembly minority leader Sam Rainsy, 20 March 2015, The Cambodia Daily
If Michelle Obama were Cambodian, she could be arrested, charged, and thrown in jail for making the above statement, which Hun Sen would say leads to a revolution. She utters the words that are fundamentally powerful, and do not bode well with any nervous autocrat protected by armed forces and tycoons.
She promotes education for some certain values – equality, inclusiveness, fairness, and openness – all of which Hun Sen has ignored, if not despised. To make up for the lack of quality education, there has been in the last two decades an abundance of lip-services for the sector he says is one of his top priorities. Teachers who are the most important pillar of any decent education system are on starving wages, and must rely on other jobs to make ends meet. Almost three quarters of investors say Cambodian university graduates fail to meet their needs; 65% of them think vocational training graduates do not match their skill requirements. And Hun Sen expects the hundreds of thousands of workers whom he sends to labour abroad to bring home what he calls “technological knowhow”.
Michelle Obama encourages political participation, which contradicts Hun Sen’s mantra of leaving politics to the leaders. She asks Cambodians to get themselves educated, to speak up, and to hold their leaders accountable, when their needs and aspiration are not met. Hun Sen, on the other hand, stimulates a laissez-faire system where everyone is on their own. They must find their own connections to materialise their wants and greed.
Those voices and opinions from all quarters that Michelle Obama says make America strong and vibrant may annoy Hun Sen and his personal interest groups, and make them nervous. They could do without a strong and vibrant Cambodia. They have their brand of peace and stability, for which their top Hitler’s disciple is prepared to shoot dead those they say trouble makers; and their court is ready to lock them up.
The leaders treat their herds, particularly members of the legislatures, like children; they are only to be seen, not heard. All attending legislators raise their hand in unison to pass the two controversial laws as soon as they are read out. Their leaders tell them it is time to pat each other’s back for the job well-done, not debating. And they would hit the roof if the Constitutional Council or the King raised any question. Anyhow, it is uncertain how many intelligent souls are cowed into silence, or how many are as content as lap dogs.
Therefore, it is unlikely that the Cambodian leaders could appreciate the US first lady’s visit to Siem Reap, let alone the values she advocates. As she is not Cambodian, Hun Sen could do little beyond whining about some misunderstanding that requires someone to foot university scholarships of $1,500 per year for each of the ten high school students Michelle Obama selects for her “Let Girls Learn” program in Cambodia.
She would not have it in any other way, but the Cambodian leaders would.
Ung Bun Ang
Besides the slang the CPP premier uses to vent his annoyance that the US is not paying for the ten scholarships, it is not clear from the following quote who is paying for them – Hun Sen, his wife, or the State? Then again, they may be the three musketeers who are “all for one and one for all”.
Anyhow, what is the big deal? The four year scholarships for the ten cost only $60,000, which is unlikely to send any of them broke. The premier and his wife are loaded; the State is reported to collect more tax revenue; and the economy is expected to do better than 7% p.a. for this year and the next. Or, is it just another screw-up of their top priority?
“សុំផ្តាំទៅលោកជំទាវមីស្សែលអូបាម៉ាផង ជំទាវប៊ុនរានីហ៊ុនសែនដោះស្រាយហើយ។ អញ្ចឹង គាត់ បានមកត្រឹមរើសមនុស្ស ដល់បោះមកឲ្យក្រសួងអប់រំដដែល អញ្ចឹងមានរឿងអី? អត់ទេ យុទ្ធនាការ គាត់ល្អ ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំសុំឲ្យមតិ សុំឲ្យអាមេរិកជួយចប់ចុងចប់ដើម កុំលេងអាធុនហ្នឹង ងាប់ហើយ។ អញ្ចឹង ដើរបំផើមចោល នែ អារឿងដើរបំផើមចោល អាហ្នឹងមិនស្រួលទេណា។ ស្រាប់តែលេងគាត់ដើរ រើសទៅ លេង៣០០នាក់ វាមិនងាប់ហើយ ខ្ញុំមានលុយឯណាឲ្យ?។ ខ្ញុំសុំទទួលមួយវគ្គហ្នឹងទៅ ហើយធើការជាមួយអាភីសគ័រ [Peace Corps] អី យូអេសអេអាយឌី [USAID]។ សុំឲ្យគាត់ថា បើគាត់រើស កុំលេងរបៀបហ្នឹង អាលេងរបៀបហ្នឹង ខ្ញុំទើបតែរកឃើញ ប្រហែលជាលោកជំទាវ បារ៉ាក់អូបាម៉ា ក្តាប់មិនជាប់ផងទេណា។ ធ្វើសារទៅឲ្យទូតអាមេរិក មើលអាហ្នឹងមែនទែន យូអេសអេអាយឌី កុំលេងធុនអាហ្នឹងណា។”
នាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ហ៊ុនសែន ថ្ងៃទី២៥ មិនា ២០១៥ វិទ្យុអាស៊ីសេរី
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