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Rhona Smith’s views on Cambodian democracy biased

Suos Yara / Khmer Times Share:
United Nations (U.N.) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith speaks. Reuters

THE recent news release by the United Nations on April 30 regarding democracy in Cambodia extensively and solely quoted the supposedly “neutral” UN envoy Rhona Smith who has made biased views on the political development and democracy in Cambodia. Her views are totally unfair for the Cambodian people and they seriously misrepresent the democratic pluralism, which is alive and progressing in the Kingdom. Moreover, she violates the principles enshrined in the UN Charter with regard to the respect of “sovereign equality, territorial integrity and self-determination.”

Ms Smith’s understanding of democracy and human rights in Cambodia are limited and narrow due to her lack of comprehensiveness, objectivity, and entirety. Her views are largely in line with those of the outlawed, defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). She has proven to be politically biased, in favour of the CNRP and needs to understand at least the foundations of democracy, which needs to go hand in hand with the rule of law, national security and social order. Peace and stability are the foundations of democracy, human rights, and development. CNRP has posed serious threat to the country due to its acts of inviting external power(s) to interfere into Cambodia’s domestic politics.

The Cambodian government has explained for many times the legal basis of the dissolution of the CNRP. However, Ms Smith ignores the facts and the explanations made by the government. The Cambodian Constitution states clearly that Cambodia is a liberal and pluralist political system – meaning all political parties are legally entitled to participate freely in politics. We should cherish and respect the Cambodian Constitution, which is one of the most liberal and democratic in Southeast Asia. Cambodia can be the beacon of democracy in the Mekong region if the international community, particularly Western powers, acknowledge and support the role of the country in promoting regional democracy.

To understand democracy of any country, one needs to study the history, culture and society of that country. Democracy does not fall from the sky. It is a process of effective participation of the people. Ms Smith ignores the complex history and social system of Cambodia when it comes to an evaluation of the country’s democratic development. Her views on the Khmer Rouge seemingly reflect Cold War politics without taking into the consideration internal factors such as power struggles and rivalries between different political factions. Cambodia was the victim of the Cold War because some political groups invited major power(s) to interfere in Cambodia’s domestic politics. Now under the strong and responsible leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Cambodians are enjoying peace and prosperity. Threats to national unity and stability have been largely been eliminated and the CPP is determined to uphold both virtues at any cost.

Much progress has been made under the leadership of the CPP. However, Ms Smith does not acknowledge such positive developments. Dissolving the CNRP is a matter of implementing the rule of law. Without early intervention, Cambodia might have fallen into chaos and instability. The government will not allow any political force to use the umbrella of “fake democracy” to destroy hard-earned peace and stability in the country. The CPP is committed to ensuring the Cambodian people and international community that democracy prevails and thrives.

By repeatedly stressing the reinstatement of the CNRP for the upcoming election, Ms Smith seems to suggest that there are no other reliable opposition political parties to contest in the election. Such judgement is wrong. There are many potential political parties and candidates that can significantly construct necessary political foundations for the long-term development of Cambodia. The future of Cambodia’s democracy does not only rely on the CNRP or few individuals like Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy.

The Cambodian people are determined to follow the path of multiparty democracy and not the CNRP-branded democracy. Ms Smith should reflect on what she said and be more objective. Cambodians are proud of their own history, be it a story of glory or a lesson of darkness. They embrace greatness and learn from history’s bitter lessons. And they will not tolerate foreign intervention that may destroy the foundations of peace and development. Cambodians want self-determination and fair judgement.

Suos Yara

Member of Parliament,

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)

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