Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dear Prof Chandler

“Politics is not fortune telling where fate is seen as a static situation at one point of time in the future that is pre-determined and cannot be changed whatever you do or try to do before that happens.”

CNRP president Sam Rainsy, 18 May 2016, The Cambodia Daily

“Cambodians have always thought their country is more important than it is. They have every right to do that, but they just have to look and see how many people they’ve got, where they stand, what natural resources they have and so on. They’re just not a power to be reckoned with.”

Monash Emeritus Professor David Chandler, 16 May 2016, Voice of America

“Don't get involve [sic] with confrontational politics… Unless you’re somebody like Mu Sochua - she’s got American husband and I think that saves her in a way. She's very brave, she's courageous, but most people don't have that kind of backing. You know, putting her in jail with her American husband is just not a good thing to do, and she's brave. But I don’t think people are going to be brave by themselves.”

Monash Emeritus Professor David Chandler, 16 May 2016, Voice of America

“But I think the Vietnamese – who are not given much credit at all by any Cambodians for this – stopped the Khmer Rouge. … They [Vietnamese] fought them [the Khmer Rouge] on the Thai border. They lost several thousand people… this is extraordinary.”

Monash Emeritus Professor David Chandler, 16 May 2016, Voice of America

“I mean his son [expected to succeed Hun Sen] would have to start making deals and arrangements now, to make sure that he is friends with people who are floating Hun Sen. That’s the Oknha, the various big business people, tycoons of various kinds, big interests, make sure that: When my father dies and I come in that you guys won’t object to this because your financial arrangements will not be bothered.”

Monash Emeritus Professor David Chandler, 16 May 2016, Voice of America

Assuming the transcript of your recent VOA interview is accurate, your statements on Cambodia issues are fascinating. You may be fortune telling, but you have an unfair advantage: your critical thinking. You can reach the sum of 2 plus 2, while some others will have to wait and pray for an outcome that is different from 4.

They are banking on their hope that international movers and shakers will intervene for their interest or what they say is Cambodia’s interest. They believe foreign powers owe Cambodia a proper democracy and human rights.

You are right that Cambodians think their country is more important than it is. They have yet to realise foreigners fundamentally act to serve their own interests, not Cambodia’s or anyone else’s. Currently, these foreigners are focussing on commercial and/or geopolitical exploitations, and dancing to the tune of whoever in power.

It is perplexing, nevertheless, that your viewpoints seem inconsistent. After downgrading the effectiveness of the international community role in Cambodia issues, you go on to claim that Mu Sochua’s American husband saves her, despite your deep admiration for her courage. An implication is that Cambodian brave souls can get involved in confrontational politics, against your advice, as long as they manage to secure an American spouse. Unless you mean a Caucasian spouse – not just any American – the suggestion will fall flat, as a number of American-Cambodians arbitrarily thrown into Hun Sen’s jail is growing.

Anyhow, it is rather interesting that you claim Vietnam is not given “much credit at all by any Cambodians” for their sacrifice of several thousands of their people’s lives to topple Pol Pot. This is a gross understatement of the Cambodian capacity for gratitude and generosity.

At least, Hun Sen, who represents half of the voting population, has bent over backward to pay his debt of gratitude in the past three decades. You may know the Vietnamese armed forces own the telecommunication cable grid throughout Cambodia, and control at least 40,000 hectares of economic land concessions conveniently located next to the common border in addition to many rubber plantations. There have been free influxes of Vietnamese migrants into Cambodia, and in exchange, outflows of wood and rice paddy to Vietnam. The list of gratitude and generosity goes on…

Vietnam should be elated with the list that the other half of voters brand as the list of dangerous way-over-the-top tributes. They may indeed expect more for their sacrifices to install their protégé Hun Sen in power and keep him there. You do; and you won’t be disappointed as Hun Sen promises an eternal gratitude.

Vietnam has done so well that these benefits will continue even after Hun Sen. Those Oknhas, tycoons, and big interests that you claim a successor must seek their blessings are just beneficiaries, not benefactors, of the regime that Hanoi has its finger on the pulse. They are not the power base – Hanoi is. Hence, Vietnam’s stamp of approval is mandatory to avoid another Pen-Sovann doom.

Otherwise, your interview is commendable.

Ung Bun Ang

Partian Shot

If Hun Sen is right that he is not responsible for the 1997 coup, then the Vietnamese army must be because it is the only forces that can so decisively demolish the Funcinpec troops. It is indeed another episode of sacrifice that goes straight into Hun Sen’s book of debt of gratitude.

“Somebody asked him [Hun Sen] – this is long ago – in ’97 – they said, ‘Were you responsible for the coup?’… he said, ‘If I’d been responsible, they’d all be dead.’ That’s what he said. ‘They’d all be dead. There would be no surviving Funcinpec.’”

Monash Emeritus Professor David Chandler, 16 May 2016, Voice of America

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