The Phnom Penh Post reported in an article on 07 February 2018 mentioning about the motion raised by Australian lawmaker Mark Butler, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, to press the Australian government to take action to defend Cambodia’s “fledgling democracy”.
“Cambodia has reached a point of deep political crisis”, “I call on this Parliament to acknowledge that Australia has an important role to play in the safeguarding and furthering of Cambodian democracy”.
His speech was commended by Mu Sochua, whose delegation will visit Australia for the full month of March, and will meet with Butler and other members of Parliament personally, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
He raised this motion in an almost empty chamber with the presence of eight people including himself.
He did make some other speeches regarding Kem Sokha’s arrest. In his previous speech on 23 October 2017, he said: “In September I spoke in this chamber on the arrest of Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodian opposition party, the CNRP, on charges related to a speech he gave here in Australia…Last month I met with the former opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, and several leaders of the local Cambodian-Australian community. There are now very serious doubts about any prospect of free and fair elections being held when they’re due, in mid-2018. This silencing of the voice of the people is of deep concern to the Labor Party.”
His motion raised the question who is Mark Butler? What is his connection with Cambodia? Why all of a sudden has he made headlines about Cambodia?
He is definitely not John McCain, whose father had a bloody connection with the US invasion of Cambodia, and McCain himself had a bloody hand owing to his cooperation with Islamic terrorist groups within the framework of the “Arab Spring” in Libya and Syria and with extreme-right groups during the “Colour Revolutions” in Eastern Europe, according to Khmer expert Raoul Marc Jennar. McCain is still haunting Cambodia as if Libya and Syria’s blood is not enough for his thirst for global regime changes.
From his background, he does a have superficial connection with Cambodia that can be seen through an international network of opposition parties. One would wonder whether he had ever been to Cambodia. When the Southeast Asian region is now more concerned about humanitarian crisis such as the Rohingya issue, Mark Butler has not made any headlines raising concern about this issue.
This questions his ability to get himself updated about the current regional trends, not to mention the ability to grasp the complexities of Cambodian politics. Such background does not give him the slightest credibility to comment and make judgments on Cambodia’s democracy.
His own party in fact is facing a “democratic crisis”. He said in one of his January speeches that Labor “remains a party that gives ordinary members fewer rights than any other Labor or social democratic party I can think of”.
Troy Bramson wrote in an article of The Australian on January 30, 2018, that “When Mark Butler was elected Labor’s national president in 2015, it was on a platform to bring sweeping changes to Labor’s structure, philosophy and culture…Almost three years on, Butler’s presidency has been one of unmitigated failure. He has not achieved anything that he spent years pushing for – greater internal accountability, transparency and democracy. And he did not even try. He has been a president missing in action. He has not led any debate, formally proposed any reforms or used his authority in any noticeable way…Butler has been a useless national president. If there is a backroom buffoon, it is Butler.”
For Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, Mark Butler is a hypocrite for his criticism on the government’s energy policy. In February 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled South Australia a “socialist paradise” that needs home generators to keep the lights on and called the state’s approach to renewable energy “absurd” and “hypocritical”.
“Does the honourable member (Mr Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide) have a backup generator at home? Does he really do that? I think he probably does.
“I think he has got it hidden under a tarp in the garage because he knows that in that socialist paradise, you can’t keep the lights on.
“The minister suggests maybe he has a bicycle. Maybe he has become a political version of a squirrel, running around keeping the lights on in his place there in South Australia.”
After all, Cambodia is not a federal state of Australia and definitely not Australia’s colony. By demanding Cambodia reverse our judicial decisions, he is rudely provoking Cambodia’s judicial sovereignty. This is driven by the “colonial mentality” that was commonly seen in imperialist powers, which such countries should be ashamed of themselves.
Some countries obstinately view Cambodia’s legal measures as inferior to theirs and Cambodia’s refusal to act on their demands as not being on legal differences but as political differences, with their fixed mind that they are representing the world’s only source of political correctness.
Defining Cambodia’s domestic legal measures as political persecution and arbitrarily demanding Cambodia to act according to their will with a clear contempt toward Cambodian law, if it is not a colony then what is?
MP Mark Butler should clear the “democracy” mess in his own party first, address challenges in his state and Australia, and try to learn more about Cambodia probably from former Australian peacekeepers who might have a better ability to compare Cambodia in the 1990s and the current Cambodia. Finally, he should awake from his colonial mindset for such a mindset is no longer a noble enterprise of civilisation as conceptualised and justified in the “The White Man’s Burden” by Rudyard Kipling. Cambodia is not Australia’s backyard and Cambodians are not Australian aborigines.
Chan Kunthiny is a Cambodian analyst in Phnom Penh.