“Our country has reached a new point with the presence of His Excellency Sam Rainsy…on stage today; the culture of dialogue has happened in Cambodia and replaced the culture of conflict and killing each other… Half my life, I have worked on peace negotiations more than war… Recently, I met a good partner: His Excellency Sam Rainsy. I don’t want to use the word ‘opposition.’ I want to use ‘party in government’ and ‘party out of government’—these are sweeter words.”
Premier Hun Sen, 15 April 2015, The Cambodia Daily
“លទ្ធផលទីពីរ នៃវប្បធម៌សន្ទនានេះ គឺការជួយជម្រុញ ឲ្យមានការដោះលែងពីពន្ធនាគារ ការលើកលែងទោស ឬការលើកលែងការចោទប្រកាន់ ចំពោះបងប្អូនជនរួមជាតិទាំងអស់ ដែលតុលាការបានផ្តន្ទាទោស ឬបាន កសាងសំណុំរឿងពាក់ព័ន្ធ ទៅនឹងព្រឹត្តិការណ៍នយោបាយ ដែលបានកើតមានឡើងក្រោយពីការ បោះឆ្នោត ថ្ងៃទី ២៨ ខែកក្កដា ឆ្នាំ ២០១៣។”
CNRP president Sam Rainsy, 11 April 2015, Sam Rainsy Facebook
“Whoever raises it [court summon for Kem Sokha], raises it for the wrong reasons, which has nothing to do justice; if it has nothing to do with justice, it can only be political.”
CNRP president Sam Rainsy, 4 April 2015, The Phnom Penh Post
“We cannot interfere with the power of the court. This affair is a story about the court and Kem Sokha, not a story about Hun Sen and His Excellency Sam Rainsy.”
Premier Hun Sen, 10 April 2015, The Phnom Penh Post
“As a symbol of national reconciliation and Khmer unity, I took part this morning in a popular ceremony to celebrate the Khmer New Year (2559 in the Buddhist era) along with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Siem Reap provincial capital city.”
CNRP president Sam Rainsy, 13 April 2015, Sam Rainsy Facebook
“We must stay together because, at the very least, we have the same Cambodian blood.”
Premier Hun Sen, 15 April 2015, The Cambodia Daily
Now that euphoria surrounding the cosiness between Hun Sen and his newly found partner Sam Rainsy has somewhat subsided, perhaps it is time to dig a bit deeper beneath the culture that drives the development.
First, it is unclear if the two leaders share the same concept of the culture of dialogue. Sam Rainsy maintains the culture he has been pursuing delivers freedom to those who are intimidated and jailed by political motivations. While Sam Rainsy sees Kem Sokha case as harassment by a politicised court, Hun Sen refuses to accept any interference to legal due process. They may misread each other to the extent the culture of dialogue may drive nothing more than their political expediency.
Second, the two have formed an exclusive club – leaving Kem Sokha out in the cold. He is not invited to share the Siem Reap limelight with the two amigos. Sam Rainsy implies himself alone is sufficient to be a symbol of national reconciliation and unity by celebrating the New Year with the premier. Kem Sokha is left to the mercy of Hun Sen who may or may not soften his stance and instruct his court to let Kem Sokha off the hook. The court must have gathered enough materials in the seven-hour interrogation of Kem Sokha to hang him, as soon as it receives the premier’s nudge.
Third, the premier no longer regards CNRP as the opposition party – it is now “the party out-of-government”, which sounds so positive. But what does this party out-of-government entail? Does it function like a challenger for power, or it is just another sweet rubber stamp – like the National Assembly, the Senate, the Constitutional Council, and the court – which Hun Sen commands at will?
Fourth, Hun Sen hits the perfect note when claiming all Cambodians must be together as they have at least the same blood. This would mean something commendable if he stopped hounding Kem Sokha and removed the imposition of a single Khmer citizenship on members of the new NEC. If the single citizenship guaranteed faithfulness to the nation as he argues, it would then have to be imposed as well on all other top state instruments. Anyhow, a predicament is that Cambodians with multiple citizenships have yet to murder Cambodians to match what the past and present single citizenship leaders have achieved.
Thus, there exist some fundamental differences within this exclusive club. These are the differences that cannot be easily reconciled given a patronage system that has strengthened Hun Sen’s power base. Ultimately, one of the two club members must sell out their basic principle for the club to last. Would it be Hun Sen to give up his power base and fundamentals? Or, would Sam Rainsy be the one to bow, with or without being blackmailed?
Perhaps the culture of dialogue is just a cover of being tamed when the opposition turns into the party out-of-government; and Sam Rainsy no longer insists voters choose either him or Hun Sen; now they can have both.
Ung Bun Ang
With USD35 million on the offering, those in Heaven can say anything to those trapped in Hell. They speak so well of Hell that they may move there themselves.
“Cambodians enjoy all the freedoms of a democratic society, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech… Cambodia has a high standard of health care, with multiple hospitals and general practitioners… Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order,” it says. “It does not have problems with violent crime or stray dogs.”
Australian Department of Immigration, Letter to Australia’s Nauru refugees “Settlement in Cambodia”, 10 April 2015
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