Monday, June 23, 2014

Pro and Con for CNRP to Join Parliament

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Continuous informal contacts between the two parties--CPP and CNRP, regional tension China-Vietnam conflict, and Thai military coup--may contribute to bring the two Cambodian rivals to a near political deal though they still have to forge some technical issues.  Recently, Hun Sen has made some political concessions, releasing the 25 detainees arrested during past protests, agreeing to create a national election committee as the constitutional body and allow the opposition to own its TV station.  Despite such a concession fell short to the opposition demand, it helped pushing the stalled negotiation moving forward to a near final political deal.  However, along with his concession, Hun Sen also has tied his knot with the opposition, organizing his supporters to intimidate and disrupt the opposition rallies and activities around the countries such as in Koh Kong province, a former Khmer Rouge base, Anlong Veng, Poipet and so forth.  Such an intimidation is not new and seen as physical threats to force the opposition to end their parliamentary boycott that has cost Hun Sen's government legitimacy so far.  Now both sides apparently exhaust their political energy and run out of their options, therefore a political concession must be contributed from both parties in order to end this protracted post-election crisis.

There are some pro and con for the opposition making a political deal with Hun Sen who has  clung to power no matter what a deal looks like.  According to Kim Sokha's statement, the CNRP may make further concession from demanding midterm election demand, the most sticking point, to just three possible conditions: the new created national election committee must be approved by two-third of votes from the MPs, equal power sharing in the parliament, and free use of state TV and radio by the opposition or the opposition can obtain their own TV license.  These demands are not difficult  for the CPP to accept.  Now the CPP has agreed to give equal chair committee posts (5 posts) to the CNRP and a first vice president of the National Assembly post while the CPP holds the president and second vice president posts.  For TV license, it should not be a problem since Hun Sen let the CNRP apply a license through the private company.  But a technical dispute over how to create a new NEC has become a sticking point again, for the CPP demands 50 percent +1 votes to create the NEC while the CNRP wants two-third votes since 50 percent + 1 formula will allow the CPP to create the NEC on its own will again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thai military coup and Vietnam-China conflict have complicated Cambodian politics

By Khmer Wathanakam

A recent bloodless military coup in Thailand which had completely removed both the government from the power and anti-government protests from the streets has sent a mixed message for Cambodia which has experienced similar crisis though less severe in term of violent confrontations when Thailand lost at least 28 lives and Cambodia lost seven lives.  Hun Sen who has personally built strong friendship with Thacksin's clan and its red shirt party used to deeply interfere in Thai politics when he had granted Thacksin  refuge and an economic adviser title in Cambodia, disregarding ASEAN's principle which adheres to non-interference into other member states' internal affairs while Thacksin had been under arrest warrant in Thailand.  Now Hun Sen seems change his position when rumor surfaces that Thacksin and his red shirt supporters had planned to create Thai exile government to resist the military coup, using Cambodia as its base.  Hun Sen strongly rejects any possible Thai exile government on Cambodian soil and orders all troops along border to co-operate with Thai military as usual while he has echoed ASEAN's principle of non-interference on other member states' internal affairs.  Despite Thai military coup has no effect on Hun Sen's power, it apparently gives Hun Sen some morale and psychological boost since he has addicted to use power and violence to solve problems for three decades.  Hun Sen may use Thai military coup as model to secure his power in current and future crisis since there have been mild reaction from the international community to the coup.  Furthermore, the Thai military coup and an expected municipal election result have hardened Hun Sen and his party's position in negotiation with the opposition in the next round.

Recent violent protests against China's interest in Vietnam has reminded what had happened in 2003 when Hun Sen stoked anti-Thai sentiment, using unconfirmed Thai movie star's comment on Angkor Wat as belong to Thailand.  As Hun Sen's words of vengeance broadcasting on media, violent protests quickly broke out, burning down Thai embassy and business interests throughout Phnom Penh, forcing Thailand to dispatch its airplanes to rescue its citizens from Phnom Penh similar to China recently sent its ships to evacuate its citizens from Vietnam.  Such a violent protest is rarely happened or allowed in the communist country like Vietnam or authoritarian state like Cambodia.  The violent mobs against Thai interests in Cambodia orchestrated by Hun Sen had clearly coordinated by Hanoi and fully benefited Vietnam rather than Cambodia.  After the Paris Peace Accord, Thai investors and businesses flooded into Cambodia, dominating most economic sectors pushed Vietnam into disadvantageous position since Vietnam had just emerged from the communist planing economy and economic embargo from the West.  Thus, its lacked capital to invest in Cambodia.  As result, Thailand's investment dominated Cambodia throughout the 1990s, as Thai prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan's new policy intended to changed Cambodia from a battlefield to investment field for Thailand.