Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hun Sen plays hard ball while CNRP faces conundrum

[Image www.khmertimes.kh.com]
By Khmer Wathanakam

After a brief detente since July 22, 2013 when CPP and CNRP agreed to end a post election political crisis, political environment has been boiled again as CNRP's MPs have challenged with the government's opaque border demarcation with Vietnam by organizing two trips to visit border posts suspected deeply installed inside Cambodian territories.  A brawling between Vietnamese and Cambodian border activists in the first trip and a larger crowd participating in the second trip which had welcomed by ebullient local people along the way have made Hun Sen furious and fear that the CNRP is still capable to rally its supporters for a short period of time to visit the border dispute with Vietnam, the most sensitive issue that can attract million of people if the CNRP plans a large campaign in this issue.  In addition, a short confrontation between Mr. Um Sam An, a CNRP's MP border activist, and Heng Samrin that led to his disciplinary punishment from Heng Samrin, and the other formidable news that the ICC case against Hun Sen has emerged again when a lawyer for the victims of land grab, has submitted  more numbers of victims to the ICC case against Hun Sen.  All such a coincidence is apparently to make Hun Sen sleeplessness again.  To respond to that awed strike, Hun Sen has swiftly thrown the court pending 11 CNRP's activists into a long jail term, then he summoned all top military and police officers to pay loyalty to him though he used the term of protecting the constitution and his legitimate government. During his speech to those officers, he slammed the opposition lawmakers who had led a big crowd to visit the border, and he threatened to handcuff those lawmakers if violence happened again disregarding of their immunity.  Also, he instructed all levels of military and police officers to strictly prevent all kinds of color revolution, using all means to subdue and extirpate them immediately since he saw thousands of jubilant youths crowding on the border, reminding him the post-election protests which had swept Phnom Penh in late December 2013. The threats of words and actions by Hun Sen has embroiled a political environment into a post election crisis again and made the opposition facing conundrum or a confused and difficult situation.

Phnom Penh Post image

After he had ordered his controlled court to hand down a long jail term for the 11 opposition activists, he urged those convicted to seek strong lawyers to defend and appeal their cases, for he has no authority over the independent court system as in his premise. Indeed, no one is doubt about the court system in Cambodia; just a couple hours from a verdict of the 11 CNRP's activists, numerous criticisms and condemnations have been lashed out from civil society, human rights groups, the opposition party, and the international community especially the US which has pledged to follow up the case closely although many government spokesmen have tried to heat back and defend its flagrant court system which is being seen as a political tool to punish those who have posed threat to its long established power.  Despite the July 22, 2013 political agreement to end a protracted political crisis, opening the door for CNRP's MPs to join the parliament in exchange for political reform, release all political prisoners, stop imprisonment and intimidation to all opposition activists and all people, Hun Sen has reneged all those promises.  Whenever he perceives his power is being threatened, he will unleash his mighty prowess to secure his continuous power grip.  Additionally, Sam Rainy and he have founded a culture of dialogue in order to end a culture of vengeance and violent bloodshed, using negotiation to solve problems, but he still warns the CNRP not to talk to him about the 11 activist case, for he wants to play down that the court system is independent from his authority.  Though this language is being repeated from his subordinates, no one is buying his repeated claim, since over the past 30 years every one is well aware of the Cambodian court system from the bottom to the top courts are being strictly controlled by Hun Sen and his CPP'a affiliates.

Now the CNRP has faced conundrum since it depends on the culture of dialogue with Hun Sen, the only way to reduce tension and to protect its supporters from all threats from the CPP.  Now again the CNRP has faced an unpleasant choice-- to continue the culture of dialogue with the CPP while its activists were thrown in jail mercilessly by the CPP's controlled court, or to strongly protest with this absurd verdict may lead to violent confrontation with the CPP again.  Hun Sen's idiosyncrasy is so  tricky; he stealthily ordered his controlled court to convict the CNRP's activists and asked them to find lawyers to defend their case.  Indeed, he the only one can give a red or green lights on this case though he has urged the convicted to seek strong lawyers to appeal the case , he can adjudicate as the supreme court judge at the end whenever he wishes.  As a weaker counterpart, the CNRP has to evade confrontation with the powerful CPP if possible.  Now the CNRP has to try all venues in order to free its activists as soon as possible. As CNRP's Vice President Kem Sokha said at the press conference in front of a notorious Prey Sar Prison that the CNRP would use three options to secure release its activists-- to appeal the case, to review the July 22, 2013 agreement with CPP, and to negotiate with the CPP through the culture of dialogue as the two parties still honer it.  Nonetheless, all these processes will require lengthy time, and hopefully as the time goes by, Hun Sen may cool down his anger too, then he is still the one to have a final say on the case as usual practices in the past.

The CNRP should be more prudent in dealing with the CPP from now on, for it can't afford to confront with it . It has to buy more time to build up its strength and to equip itself for the upcoming elections in early 2017 and 2018.  Now it's busy to raise fund for TV and radio stations that have been granted license by the government as part of the July 22, 2013 agreement with the CPP.  The TV and radio stations may be the most important means to help the party to gain more votes when the party has more accesses to air times that it had never had before since all TVs and most radio stations are controlled by the CPP's affiliates.  In order to obtain a license from the government, the CNRP has to maintain normal relationship with the CPP at least until the kick out of communal election campaign in February 2017.  After communal election result, the party needs to make assessment based on the election result and search for more new strategies if the result falls short of expectation.  The 2017 communal election is a prelude to the 2018 general election.  Any party loses this contest is more likely to lose again in the next general election, thus the CNRP should take more precautions by using and spending more times to organize and strengthen the party from grassroots to the top of the party rather than spending more times to confront with the CPP.  If the party loses again in 2017 and 2018, it will face difficulty to rebuild the party momentum as if in the past, and the party may risk fragmentation as if Forncinpec in the past.

 The convict of the 11 activists in the lengthy jail term without concrete evidences and justice has pushed the CNRP to face conundrum or a confused and difficult problem and tested how the CNRP reacts to such a draconian verdict.  But instead of angry and strong condemnation to the verdict, the CNRP chose a less rhetoric tone in order to defuse more tension in the future.  When Hun Sen plays hard ball, let him play alone or the CNRP may fall into his trap.  Now The CNRP may walk on a tie rope, avoiding any action that Hun Sen can regard as provocative action that he can use as an excuse to imprison its more supporters as we have seen in the 11 activist case.  The crux is the government security forces can beat up CNRP's supporters as they want, but if the CNRP's supporters defend themselves or fight back,  the government accuses them of committing violent act to topple the government or insurrection, a charge that lead to severe punishment by law.  After winning a fraudulent election in 2013, Hun Sen has declared to reform deeply all government and nation's institutions to be more accountable and transparent, but indeed his reform means to strengthen his own power grip and to gain more controls over judicial system and all NGOs.  The more reforms Hun Sen has introduced, the more freedom and rights of the people have been lost.  Evidently, numerous laws have been passed by the CPP's legislature over the past two years, intending to control judicial system, political parties, and all NGOs which have operated in the country for over three decades.  Although the CNRP are in the parliament, they are nearly paralyzed because they have no enough voices to block the CPP's introduced bills.  Consequently, all bad laws have been adopted to curb people's freedom and to inhibit democratic progress. Actually, the real changes and reforms will never happen unless the CNRP wins a chance to rule the country. 

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