Sam Rainsy’s last stand

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If there is a will, there is a way, no need for drama. Rainsy and cohorts create soundbites but likely to be a no show. KT/Fabien Mouret

By the time Nov 9 comes, tens of thousands would have read this editorial.  Sam Rainsy, too, is closely monitoring what  Khmer Times is saying.

As this piece goes to print, it is pertinent to point out that Rainsy and his gang of renegades are pulling out all stops in their purported attempt to return to Cambodia, tomorrow, the day Cambodia gained its independence after the determined and arduous struggles of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Rainsy and his cohorts, if indeed they return, as a group or as individuals, this date, Nov 9, 2019, will be remembered in history not for Cambodia’s independence from France but as the day of infamy when a gang of desperate politicians defiled this auspicious day by attempting a coup for self-preservation of personal interests and ambition, through a call of undemocratic actions that no self-respecting democrat would ever do.

Democrats will not think of usurping power illegally but will let the people decide through the ballot box. Just because a group of exiled desperados believe they were deprived of the opportunity to contest the general election through their own treasonous action, it does not justify the unlawful and undemocratic means through which they desire to overthrow the ruling government to turn the Kingdom of Cambodia into a Republic.

Democrats and patriots will not resort to tactics that parrot regime change or colour revolution agenda, such as hiding under fictitious names in Malaysia, or calling for a closed-door news conference in Jakarta or writing a letter of appeal to the Prime Minister of another country seeking safe passage and getting the UNHCR to lobby on their behalf to gain entry into countries in which they are not welcome.

All these selfish actions put at risk the livelihood of ordinary Cambodians, the benefits of the Kingdom’s socio-economic development and reopen the wounds of the horrors of the civil war. Foreigners and overseas Cambodians who scoff and dismiss this as propaganda-style paranoia ought to speak to ordinary Cambodians to find out just how real this existential fear is. For many, the hard-earned peace and stability cannot be taken for granted; it is not a given and both the government and people must work hard together to maintain it.

Is the call to overthrow the ruling government a well-coordinated and purposefully timed ruse to out-maneouvre the royal government because the Independence Day and Water Festival holidays commencing this weekend will draw millions to the city for the enthralling boat races, colourful floats, fireworks, concerts and the likes? Having taken advantage of the emotions of the ordinary Cambodians and made use of them in the past, are the same elements unashamedly trying to re-enact a sequel for personal glory and a misplaced agenda?

Yes, security will be much tighter and more evident this water festival because of the threat of a regime change and coup by Rainsy, but it is necessary to ensure that Cambodians can continue to celebrate the festivities with peace of mind.

However, a sideshow to all these are the statements coming out from the renegades about mass arrests of his supporters while they, the renegades themselves stay comfortably in hotels and villas and go skiing in the alps.

It is also puzzling that Rainsy’s most ardent Western backers have largely stayed silent on the arrest of the more than 60 activists thus far.

What has changed in this instance? In the past, even the arrest of a lone activist would have caused a major backlash from the West. This time the silence is palpable.

Have they come to understand that backing Rainsy is a lost cause because it will only plunge Cambodia into an abyss? Perhaps they realise and concede that these arrests and detentions are largely preemptive in nature and, by extension, probably sensible if not necessary, so long as they are subsequently released once the situation has calmed down and after investigations are concluded?

Rainsy and his cohorts are also putting to test, intra Asean relations, because he and his most senior members have been put on a travel blacklist. By using Asean nations to stage their heinous plot, this group is bent on exporting their narrow agenda and Cambodia’s politics to these Asean member countries. It also unnecessarily strains relations and brings disrepute to the Asean spirit of  seeking regional political stability. Were the same tactics to be employed in Catalonia, Scotland, Mali and Northern Ireland, just to name a few, would those countries stand idly by?

By allowing Rainsy, Mu Sochua, Eng Chhay Eang and others to try to use Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, among others, as a staging point is indeed disturbing because the ramifications of this, if the plot succeeds, even remotely, will bring about a troubled Cambodia right to their doorstep.

This will set Asean back by many years and distract members from the real pressing transboundary and transnational challenges and issues that Asean member countries must collectively deal with. Providing space for Rainsy and his despots to conduct or stage illicit activities against Cambodia is to legitimise undemocratic actions that run afoul of international law and the spirit of non-intervention; they will only add fuel to fire.

The clock is ticking and Asean members must take a collective stance. A request to blacklist  the key plotters has been sent to all Asean governments. However, in the Asean spirit of quiet diplomacy and dialogue behind closed doors, Cambodia understands that many may not reveal their final decision but most, if not all, will not allow the politics and agenda of other countries to be imported into theirs. Cambodia must have faith and confidence that their Asean brethren will do the right thing, in the name of Asean solidarity, unity and neutrality.

Mu Sochua too is a drama queen. Knowing very well she will not be allowed entry into Malaysia, she still flew into Kuala Lumpur airport, only to be denied entry and held in the immigration office pending deportation.

This attempt, and that by Rainsy, are all pathetic, childish and amateurish games being played by Rainsy, Sochua and the flock to generate media attention and put the countries concerned, Malaysia in this case in bad light.

There are direct flights to Phnom Penh from almost all Asean countries and she could have just flown direct, without drama and face arrest. On the contrary, by playing the innocent victim role and getting the various rights activists and organisations involved, she has sensationalized the issue.

For what ends? Only to try and tell the whole world that they tried but failed!

The Western countries should understand the realities and complexity of Cambodia’s politics and the implications of regime change through a color revolution or other undemocratic means. They should refrain from adding fuel to the fire.

The dark political storm will disappear soon. This weekend will determine the fate of Sam Rainsy and his clique.

This weekend will be the last political battlefield and a political endgame for Sam Rainsy. This weekend will also prove that the attempt to seek a violent regime change will fail.

Time is running out for Rainsy and his crew. It is time for peace and stability to prevail in Cambodia and for Asean to grow as a family.

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