Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is Hun Sen's threat of war real if he loses election?

[Image credits]
By Khmer Wathanakam

In the past few months Cambodian political atmosphere has turned into a boiling point since Hun Sen has reneged all his political agreements with CNRP on July 22, 2014 by employing his old tactic of intimidation and imprisonment CNRP's political activists including a senior CNRP's official Senator Hong Sok Hour, a border expert for the party.  Along with imprisonment, Hun Sen frequently repeats his threat of war if he or his party lose the incoming general election in 2018 by inciting or encouraging his military, police commanders and his appointed provincial and district governors to turn against the winning party if those officials will be replaced with new members from the wining party.  Furthermore, Hun Sen recently has promoted his second son, Hun Manith, to be a chief of an intelligence department similar to the job of the US's CIA director while his oldest son, Hun Maneth, has maintained a position as a deputy commander of his father's bodyguard unit, an elite troop designed to protect Hun Sen and his family is similar to the US's secrete service which is assigned to protect the President and his family.  Many analysts and political observers have concluded that Hun Sen has tried all his ability to cement his long time power grip by promoting his children and his relatives to the key security positions in order to clarify his doubt and fear of losing power.  The more Hun Sen fears, the more he makes threat to all his opponents and all the people.  Will the war really happen if he loses election? The answer is may or may not happen, but if it happens, it will be a short one, not a protracted war as in the 1970s and 1980s.

As a new election is about two years away to happen, Hun Sen has deployed his old trick, threatening his opponents as well as the whole nation that war will be imminently happen if his ruling party lose election.  This verbal threat should not be looked over since Cambodia had experienced the most bloody war and genocide in the 1970s and fallowed by invasion war in the 1980s,  many people have a good reason to fear about it. Most Cambodian people had lost their loved ones during past wars and genocide, and no one wants to see such a horrible event happening again in any circumstance.  However, the fear of war has been fully exploited by Hun Sen in recent election campaign in 2013, and now he starts to renew his threat of war again.  Although the economy has grown in a remarkable way under Hun Sen's rule, human rights, democracy, and a rule of law in the country seem move in opposite direction from the economy growth.  Hun Sen never let democracy flourish as the economy; he may try to walk against the water current or try to prove that political theory is wrong.
When the economy grows, democracy also follows because rising of education and wealthy middle class make people more independent and more informed about political and social issues. Thus, in general, the more wealthy the countries are, the more democracy the people enjoy.  For instances, most wealthy countries in the world are democratic or partial democratic countries such as the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and so forth.

Nonetheless, there are some exception too.  India is the largest democratic country in the world is still under developed, recently China has become a wealthy country and the second largest economy on earth still ruled by a one party system.  Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia are still partial democratic countries though their economy is so strong. Thus Cambodia may fall into this exception if Hun Sen and his party continue to rule the country for decades to come.  Every election Hun Sen doesn't have much cards to play in campaign beside intimidation his opponents, threat of war if he loses, and vote rigging.  Now he starts to play this old card again along with his boastful proofs of artificial peace, political stability, and strong economy growth. But this is only one side or an angle seeing, if we take a look at his regime from all sides, we will see that the current regime has so much mistakes to change or to reform-- from economy mismanagement to democratic regression.  Despite the country's strong economy growth-- 6 to 7 per cent in average-- mismanagement and corruption have create a larger gap between the rich and the poor when a small number of people become much richer, but the large number of people become poorer, some even struggle to find shelters and enough food to feed their children while the others live in lavish life.  Such economic injustice has created social and political instability in people heart and minds, and it can exploded into angers and revolution in some days.

Hun Sen's boastful peace and stability has only on list lip, in fact in minds and hearts of many people are boiling to a tipping point in sometimes because of social injustice, corruption, political repression, and nepotism.  Peace and stability doesn't mean an absence of war and social disorder, but it must address all economic, social and political needs for all people who want both physical and emotional peaces-- it is the sustainable peace for all people.  But Hun Sen's peace and stability is artificial and forceful ones in which people are forced to accept and endure what Hun Sen and his group have allowed.  Without  sustainable peace and stability for all people, Hun Sen has a good reason to fear of losing his power even through free and fair election process.  So Hun Sen doesn't need to make more threats of war since currently most people don't receive true peace and stability yet.  Such a threat of war will aggravate the already fragile society.  And if Hun Sen wants war he can make it at any time on his own will since he has controlled all military and police forces in the country. But the question is who is he going to fight with? Because no one has any weapon to confront with his mighty forces.  The only way Hun Sen goes to war with his opponents and the people is to order his forces to shoot them with empty hands.

However, any violence against unarmed or peaceful groups or his political opponents, Hun Sen will face big risk and severe consequences from both international community and Cambodian people.  A short war or political chaos may happen if Hun Sen refuses to transfer power to a new elected government if he loses a free and fair election.  The first reaction will be from the people as happened in post-2013 election dispute, but in the next election the protest will be much larger if Hun Sen loses and refuses to surrender his power.  Secondly, a response from the US and EU, Japan, and even some ASEAN's members will be swift and more effective in both political and economical measures.  Hun Sen will lose diplomatic recognition from most countries in the world even from the UN.  Economically, Cambodia will be more painful since the country still depends on foreign aids, and exports and tourism are the cash cow for Cambodian economy.  If the US and EU ban exports and tourist number drop down, nearly a million of Cambodian workers in garment and tourism sectors will lose their job, and the economy will collapse.  Cambodia may return to the 1980s, when the country was on economic embargo and lost the seat in the UN.  Hun Sen may look to Vietnam and China to prop up his regime.  But China and Vietnam can't fill up the gap of export and tourism left out by the West and Japan.  And China may not recognize Hun Sen's regime any more if he loses an election since China usually maintain its foreign policy of not interfere into another countries' internal affairs. In such a scenario, China may stay neutral or wait to see which Cambodian legitimate government that it should recognize or deal with.

The repeated threat of war from Hun Sen if he loses an election in 2018 is more likely a premeditated and well designed plan by Hun Sen himself; no one or any party plan to do that since they have no weapons, army, police, and money as Hun Sen does.  As recently, Hun Sen not only made a threat of war, but he openly incited and encouraged his military and police commanders namely Gen. Pol Saroeun and Neth Savoeun to turn against the wining party if they will be removed from their posts. Such an insane speech was condemned by many civil societies and the people, accusing Hun Sen of trying to hold his grip on power unconstitutionally and undemocratically.  Mr. Ou Virak, a head of Political Think Tank for Future, has questioned Hun Sen's motive and suggested for investigation on how Hun Sen knew the war would happen if he lost the election.  Nevertheless, based on Hun Sen's background and a reality on the ground, only Hun Sen can predict the war will be happening or not.  Because this man is full of trick and ability to make storm and thunder in Cambodian society for over three decades. 

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