Monday, December 30, 2013

Hun Sen in Hanoi to Get Political Tactic Advice

Hun Sen visited Hanoi during crisis at home

 protesters in the heart of Phnom Penh demanding Hun Sen to step down

By Khmer Wathanakam

The largest protest ever took place on Sunday December 29, 2013 demanding Hun Sen to step down brought a political tsunami and grievances to the regime that has oppressed people over three decades.  Albeit multiple protests took place at the same time, there were few polices presented at the scenes.  Hun Sen, an apathetic leader, seems ignore the demand, and he may try to outlast protesters, allowing them to exhaust and to fade out by themselves.  On the other hand, Hun Sen may use a Hanoi taught tactic, tricking his enemies into a trap and ambushing. 

Now our visible conjecture based on a pattern in the past, smaller protests were met with violent crackdown by polices, but mass protests gained more respect from them.  Furthermore, Previously, mass or small protest must get a permission from the City Hall or Interior Ministry and arranged several meetings between protest organizers and city officials, but now those restrictions seem no longer fallow or impose by anyone.  All protesters from different groups got free hands to march through the city streets as long as they are organized and peaceful.  It is the first time that protesters were allowed to march or to stay in front of government power structure facilities--prime minister office building, defense ministry, economic and finance ministry, and several other facilities.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hun Sen Will Face Dilemma if War Break out in South China Sea

China Navy

Vietnam Navy

By Khmer Wathanakam

Vast reserves of natural resources in South China Sea have attracted many countries to claim their shares in the area ,and it has become the most potential hot spot of armed conflicts in future. China claimed that its right to the area come from 2,000 years of history where Paracel and Spratlys Island Chains were parts of Chinese nation.  But Vietnam counterclaimed that it actively ruled over both island chains since 17th century and had documents to prove it.  However, in 1992, China passed its law declaring the entire of South China Sea as its territory.  Accordingly, China has issued a number of strongly-worded statement, warning all its rivals to stop any mineral exploration in the area.  Nonetheless, a fresh visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Vietnam and Philippine has put a brake on China's threat and reassured that the U.S. still maintains its "status quo" in Asia-Pacific.  Any war between China and Vietnam over South China Sea dispute will force Cambodia to take side clearly as Hun Sen has faced his dilemma to serve his two rival masters--Vietnam and China.

A row in South China Sea has dragged on for decades, involving occasional armed conflicts among the claimants especially between China and Vietnam.  In 1947,  China officially divulged its map covering most of the area.  In 1974, a navy clash between the two traditional foes killed at least 70 Vietnamese sailors, and China seized control Paracel Islands from Vietnam.  The next armed clash on Spratlys Islands in 1988 when Vietnam again came off worse, losing about 60 fighters.  After these two major battles, frequent skirmishes has occurred since then.  To strengthen its position over the area, in 2012 China formally created Sansha City, an administrative body to administer Paracel and Spratlys Island Chains though Vietnam fiercely protested against this move.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sovereignty Dispute Over Koh Tral

Koh Tral map

Koh Tral natural beach

By Khmer Wathanakam

Koh Tral is a beautiful natural island located just 12 km from Cambodian coastline and 50 km from Vietnam's.  Koh Tral has land area 574 square km and population about 85,000 in compared with Singapore with 750 square km and population about 5 million.  Although Koh Tral never have been controlled by Khmer government at least from French colonial time, all Khmer leaders in the past still claimed it as part of Khmer territory except from 1979 until today when the current government was installed by Vietnam to rule Cambodia as its proxy power officially recognized Koh Tral as part of Vietnam through an illegal 1982 border treaty and a controversial 2005 additional border treaty.  Today as Khmer won the second case over a promontory of Phreas Vihea Temple from Thailand in the international court, a loss of Koh Tral has become another hot topic of debate though Hun Sen has tried to whitewash it as his fault.  Based on history and physical location of Koh Tral, it clearly belongs to Cambodia.  Thus, what the current Khmer leaders should do for a loss of this precious gem?

Albeit Koh Tral history was not well documented in Khmer history, we did find some documents related to it.  In 1856 King Ang Duong, the most respectful Khmer King after Angkor Era, informed French envoys in Bangkok intended to yield Koh Tral to France in exchange for military alliance to thwart a threat from Vietnam.  But France which had already eyed on its preys of the whole Cambodia and Laos had no reason to respond with King Ang Duong's small gift.  And in his previous letter to Napoleon III, King Ang Duong warned France to stay away from Khmer territory including Koh Tral which had been controlled by Vietnam for several decades.  In 1939, Governor General Jules Bravie had drawn a line to delimit administration boundaries: north of the line were placed under Cambodian protectorate; south of the line were managed by Cochin-China Colony.  Based on Bravie's line, Koh Tral was under Vietnamese protectorate; however, Bravie decision only addressed police and administrative tasks, no sovereignty decision had been made.  After Cambodian independence in 1953, a sovereign dispute over Koh Tral was raised since there was no colonial decision on the island's fate.  In 1957, Sihanouk referred to Lon Nol, a defense minister, to protect Khmer islands including Koh Tral.  In similar note, King Surrarit reaffirmed that Cambodia had a historical right over Koh Tral.  In 1972 the Khmer Republic reiterated that Khmer had sovereignty over Koh Tral and its surrounded water, and it warned all oil exploring companies to stay away from that area.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cambodia Needs Credible Mechanism to Settle Crisis

Cambodian Royal Armed Forces

Cambodian Royal Armed Forces

By Khmer Wathanakam

 Most Western countries solve their political crisis through judicial system while other countries around the world solve their crisis with other mechanisms--monarchy, military, and even foreign mediators.  But in Cambodia, there is no credible mechanism in place to solve frequent fractious crisis.
Indeed, Cambodian constitution is among the best law in the region, for it derived part of it from the Paris Peace Accord in 1991 which fundamentally embraces democratic principle and respect of human rights; however the constitution seems have only on the paper.  In reality Cambodia still practices a de facto authoritarian or Communist political system when one man and one party control all aspects of the society, and at the same time they play democracy game to distort the public and the international community.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Crisis in Different Natures

Ms.Yingluk, the 13th Thai Prime Minister since 1985

Hun Sen, a Cambodian Prime Minister since 1985

By Khmer Wathanakam

After more than two years on power by landslide election victory, Thai Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra has faced a similar fate as her brother Tacksin who was ousted by military coup in 2006.   Two weeks of violent protest has forced Prime Minister Yingluk to dissolve her democratic elected parliament and called for a new snap election in order to avert bloodshed.  Nevertheless, her painful concession has not satisfied the protester conservative leader Suthep who has demanded her resignation and prosecution for unspecified alleged corruption.  Ms.Yingluk emotionally pleaded on TV to Thai people for calm and set a new election has struck hearts and minds of Cambodian people who are tussling with Hun Sen who had rigged the election which cost the opposition victory.  During election protest rally in Seam Reap, Sam Rainsey openly called for Hun Sen to resign or to fallow Ms.Yingluk's solution.  But every call and demand of the people seems fall on Hun Sen's deaf ears since he fears nothing but to lose his power.  Now many concerns have been raised whether the Cambodian opposition are tough enough to force Hun Sen to step down or to accept a new election.

To understand why Cambodian crisis has dragged on too long while Thai political crisis seems reach on its final stage, we should look into political system of the two countries.  Thailand is a true democratic country where all national institutions are very independent from political parties especially military, police, court, and national election committee.  When these power sources are neutral, they create balance of power that provides political parties the same playing fields to deter each other if any one dares to go beyond power limit.  Such political environment has enhanced and sustained democratic process to move forward.  Thailand and Japan have frequently changed their leaders more than any country in the world.  Since 1985 when Hun Sen was appointed as a prime minister by Vietnamese troops, Thailand has been ruled by at least 13 prime ministers, and most of them were on power for less than a year; only Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanon had the longest rule from 1980 to 1988.  He was well-known among Thai people as a fierce anti-Vietnamese invasion in Cambodia, and he ended Thai Communist insurgency in 1982 through an amnesty law.  A frequent change of Thai leaders is based on Thai political culture when people lost faith with their leaders, they come to streets to demand their leaders resigned or intervened by military.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Poor Choice of Words by Politicians

Sam Rainsey and his poor choice of words

A group of women right defenders
By Khmer Wathanakam

During a recent political rally in Seam Reap to celebrate a Human Right Day and a protest on election fraud, Sam Rainsey has accidentally become a victim of a poor choice of his own words when he said, "Hun Sen is weaker than female" in solving a political crisis in compared with Thai Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra.  But a poor choice of words that Sam Rainsey had used to denigrate Hun Sen turned out to be insulted on women instead.  Since a speech took place on a Human Right Day, and he is a human right defender, people have reacted to his speech in different ways.  When some people have ignored it; the others have even demanded for public apology.

A word "weaker than female" is commonly used by ordinary Khmer to insult or to tease each other for being incompetent and coward.  Now this old Khmer joke is no longer to be a joke, for people are struggling to demand equal right for all genders. Many Khmer women have shown their courage to defense their rights against the current repressive regime.  Over 90 percent of protesters against forceful eviction by the authorities are women.  At least one of them, Tep Vanny, was awarded as a champion of human right defender while other were jailed in different times for brave actions to protect their right.  These are just a few examples that Khmer women are courageous to fight against social injustice and to break a " status quo"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cambodia and Thailand's Crisis, Two Different Political Cultures

Cambodian protest on October, 2013

Thai protest on December 03, 2013
By Khmer Wathanakam

Cambodia post-election crisis has dragged on over four months and no sign of political breakthrough.  Now CNRP plans a fourth mass protest in Seam Reap on December 10, 2013 to continue demanding justice for voters.  Meanwhile, CPP has revealed its new tactic of intimidation against the opposition leadership with two possible lawsuits and a plan of assassination attempt and replacing new elected CNRP members a long with a call for talk.  As Cambodian political crisis in a deadlock, Thailand has slipped into another crisis for just less than three years; the crisis has reached a tipping point for less than a week when protesters stormed and occupied many government buildings that nearly made the government paralyzed.  As the Thai protest has gained momentum, many questions have raised that "Should Cambodian protesters follow the Thai?"  Based on two different political cultures of the two countries, we should not follow them.

Although the two countries share a common religion, similar culture and language originated from India, they have two distinct political cultures.  Historically, Thailand is more stable politically and economically than Cambodia.  Albeit Thailand has gone through at least eighteen military coups hitherto, Thailand has still managed to maintain civilian democratic elected governments over past decades in compared with Mayanmar which has been ruled by a military Junta since 1962 until 2011.  Thailand is among the most democratic countries in the region along with Philippines and Indonesia.  In 1932, a Thai military's bloodless coup had forced King Prajadhipok to give up an absolute monarchy power and embraced a constitutional monarchy ceded most power to parliament that has been practiced until today.  Furthermore, Thailand is a true sovereign and independent nation, and no any country dares to meddle with its own internal affairs in contrast to Cambodia.