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Alternative views on Cambodia

Suos Yara / Khmer Times Share:
Government services have improved in sectors like education. KT/ Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia’s progress has not been portrayed fairly by some media, argues Suos Yara. These media outlets, he writes, are just parroting opposition views and kowtowing to the NGOs, and help to perpetuate a situation of doom and gloom.

The risk of a colour revolution in Cambodia is real and the destruction that it may cause to this country is horrendous as we have seen in many countries in the Middle East. Simply it isn’t something that the Cambodian government could take for granted and overlook the risk.

As a preventive measure, mechanisms are in place to prevent a colour revolution from occurring and allow peace and development to continue so that Cambodians continue to enjoy prosperity and development.

Violent political contestation is not a solution. What we want now is to maintain peace, which has been hard-earned. Peace is the foundation of development and security and economic interests are intertwined. We need to aim for both. Democracy is the means to sustain peace and development.

I am certain that the election on July 29 this year will be conducted in a free and fair manner without intimidation and manipulation because Cambodia has created an acceptable track record of administrating free and fair elections in the past 14 elections – both at national and local levels.

It is incredulous that COMFREL and some other foreign-backed NGOs are attempting to create a notorious, Western-sounding “Situation Room” in Bangkok to discredit the election process and the results. In fact COMFREL negatively contributed to national elections in the past by making allegations that the indelible ink was faulty; that more than one million eligible voters were omitted from voter lists; and decrying that the election results and process were irregular and unrepresentative.

This is all just a ploy by the NGOs to attract more foreign funding for their work in the country. The more dramatic and chaotic the situation in Cambodia is portrayed to the outside world – like the misleading politically motivated narratives that Cambodian democracy is reaching a precipice, people are not free, human rights is at an all-time low, etc. – the better it is to attract funding to continue the negative campaign against a legitimate government in Cambodia.

The truth, however, is different. The advancement and proliferation of social media, that is completely uncensored in Cambodia, is a game changer for the political power game in the Kingdom. This in turn creates a level playing field for all competitors.

Those who complain about not having the media tools to work on to broadcast their political positions and activities are simply sluggish and passive. We have seen all over the world that Facebook is an effective campaign tool for all parties in Europe and America. In July 2018, all parties will be allowed to participate in the election and use available tools at their disposal to win votes.

Some members of the opposition have even hired foreign companies to help improve their international campaign. This is a complete waste of resources and they should hire instead Cambodian talent to carry out their election campaign to win votes instead of developing strategies to impose pressure and sanctions on Cambodia.

I believe that Cambodia has achieved so much since 1998. The country’s infrastructure has improved tremendously, the people’s living conditions have also improved and they have more disposable income, the economy is growing consistently with high economic growth, and the crime rate has come down. Coupled with that, government services have improved in healthcare and education and there is a deeper understanding of nature and the environment and the need to protect them.

But nothing is perfect, and the Cambodian government has recognized some pitfalls and shortcomings. Nonetheless, the government is working hard to address them.

Sadly, the country’s progress has not been given a fair assessment. Some media outlets, which have a predisposition against Cambodia’s legitimate interests, keep portraying a highly negative picture of the Kingdom.

Those media outlets mostly report the negative side of the story. They simply forget that all global ideologies are formed first and foremost for the people, their good living standard and their overall wellbeing. Cambodian democracy, which is not exactly the versions that some cynical observers desire, is doing very well in making the majority of the people prosperous and happy.

Democracy in Cambodia is alive and thriving. Democracy needs an informed public and the media informs them, uncovers background facts and contributes to the formation of public opinion. The media has a critical role to play in providing a multidimensional analysis of the subject matter. It needs to provide unbiased facts and also provide different angles and perspectives of the story.

Suos Yara is a member of Parliament and contributed this commentary to Khmer Times.

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