Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Egypt and Cambodia, the Two Crisis in Distinct Nature

Cambodian pro-democracy peaceful rally
Egyptian angry mob
the Muslim exstrmists fought back with security forces
By ខែ្មរវឌ្ឍនកម្ម

            Cambodia and Egypt currently have faced the serious crisis but in different nature. Cambodia has faced the post-election crisis which caused by the systematic electoral  fraud committed by the ruling party, the CPP and its flagrant NEC. Distinctly, Egypt has faced the post-military coup crisis when the unpopular Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was toppled by the coup, and his supporters demanded to reinstate his presidency unconditionally. Incomparably, the current crisis in Cambodia will not yield in such a terrible outcome as seen in Egypt, for the roots of the problems are so different in nature. Also, the US's reactions toward Cambodia and Egypt's crisis has come up with different tones.
        After gaining independent from Great Britain in 1922 and military coup in 1952 ending the Royal Dynasty of Mohamed Ali, Egypt had been ruled by the quasi one-party system government backed by the military until the Arab Spring 2011 which toppled the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak who had ruled the country since 1982. During the Arab Spring or the Egypt revolution, the Circular Group spearheaded by the youth Movement along with the Muslim Brotherhood (the powerful underground movement during Mubarak's rule) had worked together to oust President Mubarak, but when the Mubarak's Regime collapsed, the Muslim brotherhood have emerged as the front runner in the first democratic election for the country. Eventually, the Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi won the run off election with a slim margin. The Circular and the Youth Groups were very disappointed with the election results, for they have felt that the Muslim Brotherhood had hijacked their revolution victory which they had fought hard for, and they also have viewed the new elected Islamist President Morsi as another Mubarak the same as most Cambodian people have branded Hun Sen as another Pol Pot. Nonetheless, the Egyptian people had to swallow the reality, the principle of democracy that they had sacrificed for.

           As what they have expected, when the Muslim Brotherhood (the conservative and extreme Muslims) came to power, they had adopted the new constitution that has benefited only their group and put the others in disadvantageous positions such as restricting women rights, religious rights, free speech and inserted some Islamic rules into the law. Seeing the new law is not compatible with principle of democracy, the Youth, the Circular, and the Christian minority Groups have staged the protests to demand President Morsi, who has ruled the country for less than a year, to step down, but the President did not budge with their demand. As the standoff has dragged on for months, the military (the most powerful institution which has exercised some degree of its neutrality during the political crisis) has issued an ultimatum to Morsi to resolve the crisis with the protesters. When there is no sign of compromise from Morsi, the military has stepped in to remove him from the power and has installed the interim government broadly participated by all political groups, but the Muslim Brotherhood Party has strongly rejected and demanded to reinstate Morsi's presidency. But the military has nixed their demand and called for the new election. But the Brotherhood have mobilized hundreds of thousands of their supporters in mass sit-in protests that has created deeper crisis.
             Thousands of the Brotherhood protesters have entrenched themselves in their bastions for months demanding the reinstate of Morsi as the only legitimate president repeatedly ignoring the military's ultimatum . As many foreign diplomats failed to dissuade both sides, the military have launched an operation to dislodge and to clear out the protester's bastions, but they were fiercely resisted by the protesters causing heavy casualties from both sides mostly the protesters. The Egyptian military action against the protesters has caught the Obama's administration off guard, for the White House has expected a peaceful solution to end a standoff from both sides. Previously, Washington fell short of calling the removal of President Morsi from power by the military as a coup, and when the military has bloodily crackdowned on the protesters, the White House was a little late to condemn the military action. Even though Obama has cancelled the joint military exercise with Egypt in response to the military brutality, but he has left billion dollar of annual military aid to Egypt untouched.
          Egypt is the largest Muslim country in the Middle East and the second largest in the world after Indonesia. And Egypt is the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty in 1979 with Israel, the US's strategic ally in the region. The fall out of military power in Egypt will create ramification throughout the already unstable region. Furthermore, the US has never favored  with Muslim Brotherhood in the power because Washington used to stigmatize the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in the past; nevertheless,  it has to swallow the reality of the democratic principle which the US has protected and promoted around the world. On the other hand, during the military crackdown, some of the extreme elements in the Brotherhood supporters have resorted to use violent means against the police, the military, and especially against the Innocent Christian minority group throughout the country: many churches were torched and looted, and some of their members were killed and tortured. All these violent actions committed by some of the Muslim Brotherhood supporter have made them less sympathy from Washington and the other Western countries.
        In contrast, the situation in Cambodia is still calm but very fragile, for both sides are still searching ways to avoid any direct confrontation. However, if the fair and acceptable solution has not been found by the opposition, the mass protest will definitely occur, but it will be peaceful and well organized. Because the opposition and their supporters have never adhered to any form of violence against Hun Sen's regime, instead they have been the victims of the oppression committed by the regime for over twenty years. For the US, its interest with Hun Sen's regime is just a tiny fraction in compare with Egypt--$70 million to $1.5 billion annual aids from the US. Covertly, Washington has viewed the Hun Sen's Regime as an unfinished product from the collapse of the Cold War in 1991. Washington had spent nearly $1billion alone helping the UN organized the first free and fair election in Cambodian history expecting the end of the Communist regime in Cambodia at last.

        Unfortunately, Hanoi which had occupied the country over a decade at that time manipulated to keep Hun Sen, its protege, holding  the power until today through the compromised formula of King Father and his son, Prince Ranarith, the leaders without principle. Today, Washington's foreign policy toward Cambodia is still guided by its principle of promoting democracy in the region; but, naturally, its national interest has come first. The US's priority today is to fight the Global Terrorism Networks not the Communism anymore. Thus, the Hun Sen Regime has become a suitable ally for the US to combat the terrorism in the region. Moreover, the US's relation with the Hun Sen's Regime is another counter balance against the China's growing influence in the region and also makes Hanoi in a more comfortable and stronger position to challenge with Beijing over the South China Sea's issue. Although the US's national interest has played a key role in its foreign policies, the progress of democracy in Cambodia is on the watchful eyes from Washington every day; so far, the US has neither recognized nor nixed this dubious election result yet but strongly urged independent inquiry into such an alleged systematic electoral fraud.
         The crisis in Egypt is polarized  between the conservatives and the liberals but in Cambodia between justice and injustice, between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the pro-democracy and the dictatorship, between the Khmer interest and the foreigner interest, and between the free people and the communists. Although Egypt has ruled by one party system much longer than Cambodia, but their national institutions have some degree of neutrality such as the National Election Committee, the courts, and the military and police.  Also,the election in Egypt is free and fair and acceptable to all parties because there are no systematic electoral frauds, and their NEC is independent from the political parties. In opposite,  all these national institutions in Cambodia are strictly under the control of Hun Sen. For Washington, its foreign policy toward Cambodia is likely guided by its principle of furthering democracy as well as its national interest while toward Egypt is more likely guided by its national interest.


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