Thaksin Shinawatra in Cambodia – Sunday, 15.11.2009

Posted on 18 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 638 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 637

Several mails I had received during the week requested what this week’s editorial should be about. Agreed. The visit of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra to Cambodia has more than any other recent event received wide international attention – at the same time it resulted in bringing a range of different and opposing issues to the surface, beyond the straightforward political tensions.

The disparities start with the wording, how the visitor is called in national and international media: the possibilities extend from the fond description of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as an “eternal friend” by Prime Minister Hun Sen, to the more neutral description when referring to the “former Thai prime minister ousted by a military coup,” to the references – and this not only in part of the Thai press – to the “convicted fugitive, because of corruption, and who finally violated the bail requirements and fled the country to avoid going to prison.”

This is the first controversy.

The Cambodian government did not only refuse to live up to the Cambodian-Thai extradition agreement, “considering the prosecution and legal process against Thaksin Shinawatra as a politically motivated proceeding,” and therefore even handed back the Thai documents submitted to seek Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra’s extradition. On the other hand, the Thai government and part of the Thai media felt that already that extending an invitation and offering the function to be an adviser to the Cambodian government were an insult to the legal system of Thailand.

As a public reaction in Thailand, the popularity of the Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, almost tripled, with appruval rates of 24% in September to 69% recently, according to a poll.

The interpretation of Prime Minister Hun Sen, that the present Cambodian-Thai dispute is basically a personal dispute between the two prime ministers, was not shared in the international press. More fundamental problems were touched upon: What does it mean for the international standing of a country when a search warrant by Interpol can be dismissed, after the fugitive, who is being sought under a “red alert” warrant, after a bail violation, and after a criminal conviction for corruption in dealing with the sale of valuable public property to a family member, up to the grotesque $60,000 event of the mysteriously mistaken box of chocolate.

How would such events be dealt with under a Cambodian anti-corruption law, due to be adopted by the National Assembly since a decade ago? If actions of corruption are committed in combination with political ones, are they then no longer subject to criminal prosecution?

There were several rumors and denials – that Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra would fly together with the Cambodian Prime Minister to the APEC meetings in Singapore.

Surprising also, that the Cambodian Prime Minister compared him to Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. In an interview with Times Online, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra said: “There are some similarities there, but not really everything. The similarity is we won elections, we rule the countries. We’ve been ousted by the coup d’etat and we come from the people. We are democratically elected leaders and we come from the majority of the people – a big majority, not just a small majority. She’s under house arrest, I’ve been kicked out of the country.”

The Cambodian government has never found such strong critical words against the ruling military in Myanmar. Will the Cambodian government also accept such advice and change its position? The statement “I’ve been kicked out of the country” contrasts with the fact that the self imposed exile abroad started with breaking bail arrangements with the Thai law enforcement authorities, traveling abroad without the promised return.

But the invitation to Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser may lead to a second kind of controversies.

Press reports in Cambodia were not enthusiastic about his speech in front of 300 selected economists. The Cambodian Daily said that his address “primarily dealt in generalities and contained little that Cambodian economists will not already know.” Not only that: Some of his advice runs contrary to some of the traditional approaches of Cambodian economic practice.

Thakshin Sinawatra became the favorite politician among a majority of the rural population in Thailand because of his new policy of favoring them directly, with debt relief and village loan funds administered by the local communities themselves. The revenue of the public and the private sector should, first of all, be directed towards the poorest sector of society, is his advice. Large scale land leasings to big companies in favorable relation with the government, leading to considerable groups of the rural population losing their land, coming to demonstrate in Phnom Penh, asking for justice, as happens so frequently in Cambodia, are not compatible which the vision of Thaksin Shinawatra’s economic policies.

Surprising is also his emphasis on the need of reconciliation and good neighborliness between Cambodia and Thailand, in order to foster Cambodia’s economic development, including the promotion of Thailand and Cambodia together for international tourism, presenting themselves as a “joint destination.” This runs against many recent antagonistic trends: the Thai government had proposed to submit Preah Vihear together with the Cambodian government to the World Heritage Committee, which was flatly rejected by the Cambodian side. During the last year there were even plans discussed in Cambodia to create an international airport 500 meters below the mountain range where Preah Vihear is situated, which is conveniently accessible from the north, from Thailand. This plan, to exclude the natural access to Preah Vihear – and therefore tourism via Thailand, was soon given up again as economically completely unreal. The public outcry some years ago, when Bangkok Airways had named one of its airplanes Angkor Wat – while other planes are named according to other international destinations, promoting tourism to these places – has no place in this context. The Cambodian Daily reported his emphasis on the need for cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia, as the two countries’ economic fortunes are inextricably linked – adding: “Of course, not all my compatriots see it that way right now.” Those who see it differently in Thailand are assumed to suffer from being shortsighted, driven by false patriotism.

One may ask whether the anti-Thai actions of 2003, when the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was ransacked because of a baseless rumor, resulting in further arson so that the hardware damage alone of that night was estimated at US$56 million, and the tensions before and after the designation of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, would also fall under a similar verdict by Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, that a false patriotism is in the way also in some of the Cambodian attitudes and actions.

It is surprising to consider how future suggestions of the new economic adviser of the Cambodian government will be handled, while land conflicts in rural areas continue, further large scale leasings of land are under consideration inviting countries from the Middle East to start agro-business ventures, and Japanese companies are considering to create new large tree planting schemes in Cambodia.

Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra’s suggestions may not only be unwelcome in his own country. They run counter to major trends of present day Cambodian big business.

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Mr. Kem Sokha Encourages Merger between the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party – Wednesday, 7.10.2009

Posted on 7 October 2009. Filed under: Week 633 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 633

“Again, the president of the Human Rights Party, Mr. Kem Sokha, encouraged speeding up the merging of the two opposition parties, the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party. The president of the Human Rights Party said that the merger should be made as soon as possible, because Khmer people in the country and abroad want to see these two opposition parties of Cambodia to merge to become one strong party to defeat the party with communist tendencies which is ruling the country.

“Mr. Kem Sokha told reporters during a press conference Tuesday evening [6 October 2009] that within half a year (of National Assembly vacations), he had visited Canada, the United States, and Europe. At every place he went to he met Khmer people, and they always asked one most important question: whether democrats can unite or not, and why not. The Human Rights Party responded by telling what this party has done so far.

“Mr. Kem Sokha added that Khmer people in the country and abroad answered instead of him that if we do not unite, we will lose, but if we unite we will win. ‘This is the answer from people for us, for democrats and patriots, to consider.’ Mr. Kem Sokha added, ‘The Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party made a joint statement on 15 January 2009 at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters, but we see that so far, we have not achieved anything, while people are waiting to see the creation of a movement, a democratic movement for change, where two parties come together.’ But when people asked what progress was made, he could not tell them anything. He said, ‘But we established a working team for discussion, where each party has four members. The members from the Sam Rainsy Party are Mr. Son Chhay, Mr. Yim Sovann, Mr. Kim Suophirith, and Ms. Mu Sochua, and the members from the Human Rights Party are Mr. Nhem Bonharith, Mr. Ou Chanrith, Mr. Keat Sokun, and Mr. Chour Chung. There have been eight meetings already, but no progress has been made. That is why people are concerned, and they encourage that there should be significant progress made, in order to provide them hope. He went on to say, ‘The Human Rights Party calls on all political parties and patriots to join, to sit down and discuss to organize the conditions and political policies to create a new party, to participate in the next elections. We think that we have to sit down together to discuss, and if all of us claim that we are democrats and want change, we need to win the elections. We cannot win the elections unless we merge. If not, we will not win. If we do not merge, we do it to lose. And if we want to win, we have to merge.’

“Mr. Kem Sokha said that there is no official response yet. The meeting has not received a response: which points are acceptable and which points are not. He said, ‘We still maintain the same stance. And we make another appeal to other parties to continue to negotiate. The Sam Rainsy Party did not respond anything to us. We want to merge to create a new party or an ally for others. We want the new party to be created based on democracy, but not based on any individuals, and want to stop individual power; we also suggest to limit some terms, but this is not a condition set by the Human Rights Party.’

“Yesterday, the Human Rights Party released a statement to express its position to create alliances with other political parties finally towards a merger.

“The statement said that the Human Rights Party thinks that it is the right time for democrats to meet and to discuss transparently, prioritizing the fate of the nation, to consider creating a new party following requests of Khmer citizens, after we have created a democratic movement for change on 15 January 2009. About one year after the fourth term elections, there have been concerns over the political situation, about integrity, freedom of expression, the economy, and social problems in the Kingdom of Cambodia which are problematic. Based on direct visits by Human Rights Party leaders in many communes in the country and abroad, many Khmer compatriots who love democracy, ask the Khmer political parties and the politicians who claim that they are patriots and democrats, to unite to create a new party to win the next elections.

“‘The Human Rights Party would like to stress again its position to inform the public that the Human Rights Party is already prepared to merge with other politicians, parties, and patriots to create a new political party with democracy as its basis.'” Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1702, 7.10.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #304, 7.10.2009

  • The Bank of Investment and Development of Vietnam Wants to Invest to Develop the Stock Exchange in Cambodia
  • The Hong Kong Trade Development Council: US$10 Million for the Promotion of Cambodian Companies

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2065, 7.10.2009

  • Doctors Saved the Live of a Girl [through an operation], but Her Mother Died of A/H1N1 [the number of deaths in Cambodia increased to three – Phnom Penh]
  • Because His Wife Has a Mental Disorder, a Man Raped His Daughter since She Was 9 Years Old [now she is 16, and the man was arrested – Phnom Penh]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #503, 7.10.2009

  • The UN Secretary General: Urbanization without Clear Planning Forces Millions of People to Face Hazards
  • Different Civil Society Leaders Expressed Different Ideas about the Creation of a Bodyguard Commanding Office of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen [an official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, said that it will help control bodyguards of Prime Minister Hun Sen and halt people from pretending to be his bodyguards for their own personal interest, while officials of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, Mr. Oum Sam Ath, said that disorder will continue to exist, if this new unit is not controlled properly]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6772, 7.10.2009

  • Clarifying Statement Responding to the Accusation that the Government Implements a Policy to Evict Citizens by Force [the Council of Minister explained that it does not relate to “evictions” but to temporary “relocation” of citizens]
  • North Korea Plans to Resume Multilateral Talk Again

Phnom Penh Post, Vol.1, #20, 7.10.2009

  • Cambodia Increases Budget for Development [from US$82 million in 2009 to US$100 million for 2010]
  • UNDP: The Quality of Life Index of Cambodian People Drops by Six Points [among 182 countries to 137th, below Congo, but above Burma]
  • 500 Workers Protested at the Ministry of Labor [demanding the ministry to intervene after 1,000 workers had been dismissed illegally by the Sky High Factory – Phnom Penh]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5014, 7.10.2009

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Asked to Exclude Articles Related to Defamation, Insulting, and Distortion [from the Penal Code draft], but It Was Rejected by the National Assembly
  • Siem Reap Plans to Spend Riel 3,000 Million [approx. US$750,000] to Restore Roads after the Flood Receded
  • Japan Will Increase Official Development Aid for Cambodia by 40% [for 2009]
  • In September 2009 36 People Were Killed in Traffic Accidents in Phnom Penh
  • Working in Japan One Can Earn Much Income, but There Are Not Many Khmer Workers There [a worker can earn up to Yen 70,000 per month, approx. US$700; no total number of Khmer workers in Japan is given]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1702, 7.10.2009

  • Mr. Kem Sokha Encourages Merger between the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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