I find it strange that the Khmer Times would go all the way back to the Lon Nol era and Chhang Song in order to shed light on the Kem Sokha case. The reported comments are interesting if at times contradictory: “He [Kem Sokha] claimed the US gave money for a plan to topple the government. They gave money in order to educate people to learn how to choose their own leader to lead the government through free and fair elections.”
It is not clear which of the two sentences Mr Chhang Song stands by or if somehow both are meant to apply?
I can certainly vouch for the fact that the United States and many other donors have given a lot of money to Cambodia since 1993. They do want to bring about free, fair and credible elections as well as a final end to conflict and violence employed as a means to govern.
Not only has money been provided towards these laudable aims, but also technical expertise from many international advisors. Kem Sokha refers to them in the videotape cited as proof of his treason. They are, according to the Prime Minister, “the ‘third hand’, helping the opposition CNRP to invoke regime change”.
The term “regime change” is banded about, as if it is automatically bad. It need not be.
All of these advisors, many distinguished in their fields, not only advocate “change of regime” but also “change in regime”.
Their messages of democracy; good governance and citizen-friendly policies are addressed even more to the governing party than to opposition ones for obvious reasons. Change can be put in to practice sooner rather than later. Over the last 24 years, ruling party leaders and officials have indeed taken full part, and in greater numbers, in the exact same educational sessions as Kem Sokha describes.
It is a fair question to pose if the United States favours the CNRP over the CPP? Probably it does for now. CNRP appears to share more of its values, but then such backing is given neither exclusively nor unconditionally.
CPP could choose to adopt similar values, after all, they have been put directly to them over many years, and would gain favour. The converse applies to CNRP.
If – or should I say when – CNRP manifests contrary values, as it does for example when referring to Vietnam, then it can expect to forfeit international backing and fall rapidly from favour.
Although demography is making Cambodia a younger electorate, the trend is not stopping it from maturing in politics and public affairs – one clear benefit of modern technology. In every election to date it has never given one party an overwhelming majority over the others. They want parties to work together. They don’t want either dictatorship or boycotts. The signs are clear and first-hand. Who needs them to be second-hand or third-hand?
John Lowrie is a human resources officer by profession. He has been an aid and development worker since 1985, working in five developing countries, and Cambodia since 1998 where he has been country representative of three international NGOs and formal adviser to seven local development and human rights organisations.