Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is Ukraine Crisis a Cambodian Future Pre-image?

Russian troops blocked the road in Crimea,Ukraine (Google image)

Vietnamese Troops blocked opposition MPs from visiting border (Google image)


As a result of three month-long deadly uprising against a pro-Russian government in Kiev, President Victor Yanukovych fled the Capital after he had ordered his security forces to shoot protesters, killing at least 82 people and scored many more injured.  But the Ukrainian protesters' victory turned into political uncertainty when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops to seize Crimea from Ukraine without a shot, claiming he has a right to protect Russian people who were in danger, actually there was no threat against them according to many reporters on the scenes.  But President Putin used his claim as an excuse to invade Ukraine to protect Russian interest and to incite Crimea's secession from Ukraine.  Meanwhile, Cambodia even has a crisis a few months before Ukraine, a political stalemate has still dragged on, and if the current pro-Vietnamese regime collapses or defeats in election, what will Vietnam react to a situation in Cambodia? There are some analogies between the two nations.

After integration with the Soviet Union on December 1922, Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union and the most prosperous state known as a bread basket and advanced industrial state among the 15-states in the former Soviet union.  During the World War II, Ukraine became a raged battle ground between Nazi troops and the Red Army, for its location mostly stretched between Europe and Russia.  After the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, Ukraine became an independent nation, but it still has received heavy influence from Russia economically and politically since about 25 percent of its 46 million population are ethnic Russian, and some Ukrainian elected presidents were pro-Russian presidents.  Since its independence from 1991, Ukrainians elected four presidents, and at least three of them were more pro-Russia than the West.

Albeit, Ukraine is mostly related to Russia culturally and politically, the majority of its people still want to integrate themselves with EU more than with the new economic bloc led by Moscow.  But Russia usually tries to lure Ukraine into its political orbit, granting Ukraine with cheap natural gas and guaranteed loan. Such economic dependency and its strategic location makes Ukraine a high stake for President Vladimir Putin to lose it.  Russia, strategically, wants Ukraine and Belarus as its buffer zone separating itself from the EU and NATO.  Russia never wants to share its border with any NATO's members. If Ukraine is ruled by a pro-Western government, it will eventually become NATO member in the future, and it will pose a great threat to Russia's security.  Now President Putin has attempted all his means even in a brazen way to keep at least parts of Ukraine, the Crimea Peninsula as its strategic location possession.

Now, President Putin hold most leverage in Ukraine crisis, though the West and the US strongly condemned Russian troops' incursion in the Crimea, no one dares to choose military confrontation with the second largest nuclear power in the world since any military confrontation with Russia will escalate to nuclear war that will result with no winner.  Nevertheless, the West has worked around o' clock to search for non-provocative means to tame President Putin to back down, threatening only economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia if President Putin doesn't pull back his troops from Crimea.  On the other hand, the new government in Kiev has carefully tried not to provoke Putin, ordering all Ukrainian troops to be on high alert but to restrain from all kinds of confrontation with Russian troops, who had besieged all Ukraine military bases in Crimea, though they have been harassed and threatened by the Russian troops.  Because any armed confrontation with Russian troops will give Putin a good excuse to use his super power military forces to crush Ukraine as he had done with Georgia in 2008.

The situation in Ukraine is reminiscent to Cambodia's grim future as the political crisis has continued more than six months, and it is likely to reach its tipping point as if in Ukraine someday if a reasonable solution can't be found by the two major parties.  A re-election or giving the CNRP National Assembly president post may be the most reasonable solution that the two parties should consider it.  The CNRP, if agrees to work with the CPP, it really needs a balance of power or power base in order to overhaul the government reformed programs and its policies more effectively.  Without such a balance of power, the CNRP will be powerless to help solving all problems that the people and the country are facing today. On the other hand, a second option, a re-election will help to put all people's angers and frustrates to rest as justice is being served.  Without such a fair solution, the political and social stability will not be lasted, and the current superficial stability imposed by Hun Sen will not be sustainable unless the people receive justice for their voices.

For the opposition, either Hun Sen still holds the power or is defeated by future election or popular uprising as if in Ukraine, they still face a tough job ahead.  Vietnam which has indirectly controlled Cambodia via its proxy power, the CPP, will not give up Cambodia easily as we have seen Putin has behaved in Ukraine's crisis.  We already had learned a bitter lesson in 1993 even if at the presence of UN peace keeping forces, Vietnam still incited the CPP's members to claim secession on the eastern part of the country when they had lost election.  Although Vietnam did not send its troops into Cambodia as Putin did in Crimea, but it had enough its underground agents and soldiers along with Hun Sen's loyal troops to defense themselves from the new government's troops and UN peace keeping forces.  But as the Khmer leadership under King Sihanouk and his son, Prince Ranaridh, was so weak and naive, Hanoi was able to retain Hun Sen on top of power without sending its troop reinforcements.

Nowadays, if Hun Sen is defeated in the free and fair election, how will Hanoi react to protect its interest that has been growing over the past 35 years?  Cambodia is more likely to fall into chaos if the opposition defeat Hun Sen in an election. Currently, we don't know how many ordinary Vietnamese immigrants and their secret agents stay in the country, and how they react if the current regime collapses.  During a bloody coup in 1997, there were many sources indicating that the Vietnamese undercover agents and militias came to fight along with Hun Sen's troops to defeat the royalist troops.  In Ukraine, Russians can't pervade into Ukrainian government, but in Cambodia, Vietnamese easily penetrate and work behind the regime power structure from defense and interior ministries even to Hun Sen's elite brigade. We don't anticipate any Hanoi's military incursion as Russia did in Ukraine if the current regime collapses since Hanoi at least maintains its enough agents collaborating with Hun Sen's loyal forces to intimidate and to sabotage the new government elected by the people.

The current situation in Ukraine has imaged a grim future for Cambodia if the current crisis cannot be fairly and peacefully solved.  Even though Cambodia is not in a strategic location between the West and East as Ukraine, Cambodia is still a high stake for Vietnam and China which are currently scrambling to reap their benefits from the current regime.  Any new Cambodian government that poses a threat to their interests will face the same fate as in Ukraine.  The opposition should have their clear vision about such an unpredictable future and create a back up plan to handle a situation more effectively.  In a verge of the 1997 bloody coup, Prince Ranaridh intended to confront with Hun Sen militarily but had no strategic plan to encounter with Hun Sen's military power.  Consequently, the Forncinpec power's structure was extirpated over night.  Now the opposition have nothing to confront with Hun Sen militarily but the people power and the support from international community.  Hanoi will not brazenly send its troops to intervene as Putin has done in Crimea, but its underground agents and Hun Sen's elite troops are more than enough to terrify the people and to push the country into chaos on their will.  However, Cambodia is in a better position than Ukraine if Hanoi intends to intervene into Cambodian situation militarily, the international community is willing to confront with Hanoi much stronger than with Russia since Vietnam is not a nuclear power as if Russia.

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