Hun Sen’s Risky Challenges
“កុំធើជាសត្វឆ្កែ គ្រាន់តែដើម្បីជាមួយនិងឆ្អឹងសាច់មួយដុំ វាមិនថ្លៃថ្នូរទេ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ បើមិនធើតាមអញ អញនឹងកាត់ផ្ដាច់នេះ កាត់ផ្ដាច់នោះ កាត់ទៅ។ លោកឯងជ្រើសរើសមនុស្សប៉ុន្មាននាក់ រឺជ្រើសរើសប្រជាជន១៥លាននាក់? លោកឯងជ្រើសរើសទំនាក់ទំនង ជាមួយបុគ្គលមួយក្រុម រឺ ក៏ហ្អែងជ្រើសរើសទំនាក់ទំនងរវាងប្រទេសនិងប្រទេស? ”
នាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ហ៊ុនសែន ថ្ងៃទី ១៧ ធ្នូ ២០១៧ វិទ្យុអាស៊ីសេរី
«ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋអត់ខ្វល់ទេ ខ្វល់បំផុតរបស់គាត់ គឺអញមានបាយឲ្យកូនស៊ីឬអត់? តើអញមាន សម្លៀកបំពាក់ឲ្យកូនចៅគ្រប់គ្រាន់ឬអត់? អញមានមុងភួយគ្រប់គ្រាន់ឬអត់?»
«ពូចង់ឃើញប្រទេសនេះ អត្រានៃភាពក្រីក្រនៅទាបបំផុត ហើយប្រាក់ចំណូលពលរដ្ឋរបស់យើង មិនមែនគ្រាន់តែ១៥០០ដុល្លារសម្រាប់មនុស្សម្នាក់ដូចថ្ងៃនេះទេ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែពូចង់ឃើញថា នៅពេលដែលពូចាកចេញពីតំណែង ប្រាក់សម្រាប់ពលរដ្ឋម្នាក់ៗមិនតិចជាង៣០០០ដុល្លារសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក។»
Hun Sen sets up two interesting challenges for himself: goading the West into imposing sanctions on garment imports, and doubling the Cambodian average income before he retires.
Facing the potential trade sanctions, Hun Sen sounds proud when he tells Cambodian people not to be a dog that is satified with a meaty bone – there is no dignity in it, he says. He means the dog deserves much more, just like he and his minions who have been dogging truckloads of cash. Ironically, he also claims all the people need are sufficient food, clothes, mosquito nets, and blankets – just bare necessities, nothing more than the meaty bone.
However, an interesting question remains: can Hun Sen really manange any fallouts from the sanctions? He can, judging by the way he goads the West into implementing them. His dare makes some minions apprehensive; the Commerce Minister sombrely urges him to sweet-talk EU member states to avoid the bans. But his trump card is China, despite his rhetoric that foreigners keep out of his domestic affairs.
China may choose to pay for the Cambodian garment exports under sanctions. If the West merely removes the tariff-free status, a total cost will be about USD686 a year, which is peanuts relative to the Chinese GDP of USD11.2 trillion. If the exports are banned altogether, China can even buy the whole USD6.2 billion garment production, and dump it as land reclamation in Xisha island of the South China Sea.
Then, what can Hun Sen offer in return for the Chinese easy cash? There is no free lunch. The risk is that Cambodia may run out of what China wants. It has already controlled a vast territory in Cambodia’s north-eastern region for exploitations of local natural resources, and a large chunk of national economic activities. Then again, a shrewd Hun Sen may come up with something enticing.
A China deal will make Hun Sen’s second challenge less taxing. It may be just a matter of time for him to double the people’s average income before retiring. If he plans to retire in 10 years, the annual average rate of income increase would be about 7.2%, which is possible. If he hangs around for 25 years, the double income becomes inevitable with a relaxing rate of 2.8%.
However, if the santions are on and there is no China deal, consequences may be ugly. The people’s income will drop, impacting millions. Many will struggle to have even the bare-bones necessities Hun Sen recommends. Given an unprecendent and extensive pork-barrelling Hun Sen has recently been promising garment workers, he must know they could give him an authentic colour revolution – not a fabricated one he has used to persecute political opponents.
Still, as Hun Sen has proved he is prepared to get the country to pay any price for his victory, the likelihood is that he will somehow secure the China deal. Hence, it is not what Hun Sen can do for the country, but what Cambodian losers can do for him.
Ung Bun Ang
By The Way
There seems to be a collaboration between Hun Sen and China to evade EU tariffs on Chinese exports of food additive citric acid to Europe. EU claims to have sufficient evidence to launch a rigorous investigation to determine if the Chinese exports goes to EU via Cambodia.
Hun Sen may do the same thing in the Cambodia’s garment exports to Europe. While Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak recognises only about 400,000 garment workers, employer association GMAC claims the total workforce is about 700,000. If both statements are correct, then the difference relfects the number of garment workers in China. Furthermore, a source in the Hun Sen inner-circle admits to a collaborative transshipment between China and Cambodia to export Chinese garment products to the EU.
This collaborative theft of the EU tariff and duties may just throw a spanner into the works. It may escalate the Hun Sen’s challenges from a low-risk to a high-risk one, unless China still sees the overall merits of taking on the EU sanction threats against the Cambodia garment exports.
“[EU investigation] takes place each time there is a suspicion that goods are transhipped from a country under anti-dumping measures (in this case China) through a third country (in this case Cambodia) in order to avoid the payment of the relevant duties… If the investigation finds that such transhipment [sic] is taking place, anti-dumping measures [in the form of] duties would be extended to cover these exports from Cambodia.”
EU ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar, 26 December 2017, The Phnom Penh Post
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