Thursday, November 12, 2015

Should Cambodian politicians learn a lesson from Myanmar?

[Image credit RFA Khmer]
By Khmer Wathanakam

Political atmosphere has heated up again after Hun Sen has angrily reacted to Sam Rainy's criticism, labeling  his leadership as a dictatorial rule and planning to create political instability in order to avert the incoming election.  Through his Facebook Page, Hun Sen called Sam Rainsy " a son of the traitor." And he also warned Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha of facing imprisonment, accusing them of inciting violence on Veng Sreng Road in early 2014 where Hun Sen's security forces opened fire on protesters, killed at least seven people and wounded nearly a hundred more.  Along with rude personal attack on Sam Rainsy's background and the threat of imprisonment, Hun Sen simultaneously called for his supporters to stand up against the opposition party (CNRP).  As a pattern, all Hun Sen's threats and warnings always have turned into violent mobs or imprisonment on his opponents.  Now Hun Sen's new threat seems even stronger than before, and the opposition should carefully watch out what measure Hun Sen would take against the two CNRP leaders and their members.  When Hun Sen labeled Sam Rainsy as a traitor just reflected to his own actions, and let the people make their own judgement who is a real traitor? A landslide victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Ms. Aung Sann Suu Kyi in Myanmar over the Pro-military government of President Thein Sein, has sent a clear massage to all dictatorial leaders in the region--Hun Sen, Gen. Prayuth Chan Ocha of Thailand, and the communist leaders in Vietnam and Laos that their political fate would not last forever.  For Hun Sen, a paranoid man, the more he fears, the more he reacts to his opponents in rude and uncivilized manner.  On his Facebook Page, Hun Sen tried to differentiate between Aung Sann Suu Kyi and Sam Rainsy, portraying Suu Kyi from a patriotic family and Sam Rainsy from a traitor family.  Why did Hun Sen tried to show such a comparison? Because he did not want the people to see Sam Rainsy as Aung Sann Suu Kyi of Cambodia, the political shadow that he fears most.  However, to cool down political tension in the country, Hun Sen should learn from President Thein Sein whom Hun Sen used to boast that he had taught him about reform and democracy from Cambodia.  And Sam Rainsy, as a friend of Ms. Aung Sann Suu Kyi and sharing a common value of democracy with her, he should learn from political skill and how she has dealt with her political opponents in order to reach his final goal of bringing a true democracy to Cambodian people the same as the people of Myanmar.

This is not the first and the last time when Hun Sen has overreacted to criticisms from Sam Rainsy and his other political opponents, even many political analysts and civil society groups.  But since Sam Rainsy is his main political rival and a potential candidate to unseat him in the next election, Hun Sen perhaps tries to selectively target those who have posed a great threat to his power grip.  Hun Sen's strategy is to discredit, to humiliate, and even to eliminate his main rivals from political stage if possible.  Hun Sen now seems lose control and is intolerant on all kinds of criticism from the opposition, especially from CNRP.  He uses the culture of dialogue with CNRP as a mean to shut up all criticisms from CNRP.  Any criticism on his party, policies, and leadership will be met with counter crude personal attacks and threat of imprisonment. When Sam Rainsy criticized his leadership as dictatorship rule is well reflected to what Hun Sen has run the country everyday since he is above the law and control all national institutions-- military, police, court, and even the parliament. For instances, he can order police to arrest Senator Hong Sok Hour without respecting his immunity guaranteed by the constitution.  He ordered his rubber stamp parliament members to remove Kem Sokha from the vice president post of the National Assembly on his own will, and he ordered the court to sentence at least 16 CNRP's activists to lengthy prison term based on his own grudge and so forth. All these actions are well-indicated that he is a real dictator who has ruled the country by intimidation of imprisonment and violent mobs against his political dissents.

If Hun Sen claim that Cambodia is a multi-party democratic country, he should learn to open his mind to accept some criticisms that focused on his policies and leadership; this is a normal norm of democratic society. Hun Sen used to claim that he the one who had helped Myanmar to reform from military dictatorship to civilian and democratic rule.  Now Professor Hun Sen should learn from Thein Sein instead.  It takes him for just four years to reform Myanmar from military rule to true democracy while Hun Sen has spent more than two decades to destroy true democracy introduced by the UN to a dictatorship rule in Cambodia.  President Thein Sein though he is a former military dictator, he came to rule the country in pragmatic, honest way and open mind.  He is a polite and quiet man; he had never made any open threat to his political opponents, and he honestly created a National Election Committee to run the freest and fairest election in Myanmar history while Hun Sen has used all means to intimidate, to break up, to buy out his opponents, and finally to rig an election result in every election time.  It's not too late for Hun Sen to learn from what Thein Sein had done in Myanmar, and he will be given credit and honor as a great statesman as if President Thein Sein. Even though Thein Sein lost the election to Aung Sann Suu Kyi, he lost in dignity and honor.  President Thein Sein is the first person to receive a phone call from President Obama who has praised him for staging a peaceful, free, and fair election in the country history.  Then Aung Sann Suu Kyi who also received congratulation from the President who admired her perseverance, hard work, and patience in order to bring true democracy to this isolated nation.

To bring a long lasted detente to Cambodian political atmosphere, Hun Sen should learn from his so-called former pupil, President Thein Sein.  How he run his country over the past four years, how he let all Burmese people to choose their leaders in free, fair, and peaceful election, and how he treats his political opponents. The only way that Hun Sen can earn his credit and honor is to stop threatening all his political opponents and to allow free and fair election to happen in 2017 and 2018.  Either he wins or loses but in dignity.  For Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, in order to continue their political careers and to reach their final goal of bringing true democracy to the country, they should learn from Ms. Aung Sann Suu Kyi's political skill in dealing with a dictator, avoiding provocative speeches and unnecessary criticisms that usually draw ire from Hun Sen and counterproductive to the party.  Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha should learn and understand Hun Sen's behavior and trick clearly.  this is a realpolitik that they need to adopt in order to promote peaceful political environment for the next election. Don't ask other countries to help deescalating political tension for Cambodia, but they should initiate and create it by themselves first before seeking for help. Remember that it's so naive to put on fire in your own home and scream for help from your neighbors.  CNRP's leadership must adopt a conciliatory tone towards Hun Sen, avoiding direct criticisms on him, no matter how bad he behaves, but let the people give him a final judgement in the next election.  Look at Ms. Aung Sann Suu Kyi, even if she won landslide election, she has shown no pride but calm; she has frequently advised her supporters and party members not to provoke or insult their opponents by any means. And even as a winner, she offers dialogue with her opponents, President Thein Sein and the top military General in order to pave the way for smooth and peaceful transition of power.  All Cambodian politicians must learn from this model to insure that both winners and losers have dignity and peace of mind, other while a cycle of violence, political instability, and dictatorship rule will prevail over the country for decades to come.  

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