“Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen] said that a reconciliation can take place only when cases in court have concluded. So, we are going to appear in court and in order for us to do so, we must be allowed return to Cambodia,” so said Mu Sochua, a fire brand opposition leader who is the deputy president of the now defunct and illegal Cambodian National Rescue Party.
In a statement issued 1st December, she claimed that she would lead the CNRP officials and activists to return to Cambodia on Jan 4, 2021, to face trial on the 14th of January 2021. Discreet checks around town with Cambodian patrons and customers, young and old, at coffee shops and cafes elicited ridicule and curious looks, as if they were singularly undecided if the questions posed were a mischief to test their wit or out of malice and sarcasm to expose their ignorance.
Most said they have lost count how many times such boisterous claims of bravado had quickly given way to convenient, if not lame excuses, and eventually to cast blame on anyone and every circumstance except the one(s) who cried wolf over and over again. They tire of this sham and want nothing to do with it.
It is no longer just recalcitrance, certainly beyond habitual, it has become pathological. Perhaps Sochua too has grown wearisome and tired of the lies and deceit that she and her compatriots have repeatedly spun and sown, or maybe the burden of guilt for having led their supporters and activists around by the nose has finally pricked their conscience. The jaded horse, a metaphor for being worn-out and broken, might just make her return.
But wait. Before anyone gets their hopes up, didn’t Sochua and her motley gang of pretenders say they would only return if their cancelled Cambodian passports were revalidated? They had resolutely refused to use their foreign passports back then but suddenly they no longer have any qualms to do so. They have even set a date (yet again) to return.
This sorry act, considering their many previous rehearsals to refine their plot and narrative, is an insult to the Cambodian people. Cambodians are no longer as naïve as they once were; they are better informed and more knowledgeable today than to be beguiled by false pretenses and empty promises.
Sochua has put in place a few ready excuses to make sure her return cannot happen and which she can conveniently blame on.
Firstly, why arrive in Cambodia on 4 January 2021 for the trial on 14 January, leaving only ten days’ allowance for her quarantine? If she were serious, she should set foot in the Kingdom by 31 December or earlier. But that would mean missing out on the Christmas festivities and New Year countdown party. The champagne, caviar and rubbing shoulders with those in high society are just too high a price to pay.
Secondly, after all the indignation and challenges to the Cambodian authorities to re-validate their cancelled Cambodian passports, why do we not see the same passion and energy invested to make sure they can be issued the relevant visas for their foreign passports? But getting a visa early will mean it is more difficult and embarrassing to back out.
Thirdly, it is easy to set a date knowing that there would be few, if any, international flights to Cambodia. But if there is no real intention of following through on the return, then the flights don’t really matter.
Rather deviously, they have probably learnt from the elaborate show that they put on in Nov 2019 that few ASEAN cities, if any, would allow them a transit or stopover for their onward journey to the Kingdom as they do not wish to be involved or to intervene in another country’s domestic politics. Neither will they allow politics of another country to be imported to their countries, and be used as a stage by opposition cheats.
Even when Malaysia unexpectedly allowed Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua entry into its country, they did not dare venture further to continue on to Cambodia. Instead, they stayed on in Kuala Lumpur before hightailing back to Paris. Indeed, they have become wiser that it is best not to reveal the routes for fear of the unwanted facilitation by misguided sympathisers who are not in tune with their real end game, which is to avoid stepping foot back in the Kingdom at all costs. They just want to put up a convincing enough performance to rattle the cage of the Cambodian authorities, never mind if it damages its relations with other friendly countries, and in doing so, raise more funds from donors and backers to finance their Parisian lifestyle.
So, if this latest ‘gambit’ is not to be believed, then what should one believe in?
“All CNRP leadership and exiled activists who were summoned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court shall return to Cambodia” to face questioning over allegations of “incitement” and “treason,” which they insist are politically motivated. They are among around 130 opposition supporters and other dissidents due to be tried early next year on charges of treason against the country.
Some of the more knowledgeable patrons at a coffee shop offered this insight: Sochua and others came up with the latest ploy to redirect international attention away from the several top-notch former opposition figures like Son Chhay, Kong Korm, Tep Sothy, Dr Ly Srey Vina who have been granted royal pardons to return to active politics, breaking away from the outlawed main opposition party. They pointed out how Sochua and her henchmen had poured scorn on those granted permission to re-enter politics, branding them as traitors for having abandoned the former CNRP.
But the biggest threat and thorn for them is Kem Sokha, widely recognised and respected by many Cambodians and international community for his grit and tenacity, and for having stayed on in Cambodia to fight for his political beliefs, however misguided they may be. He has not only regained his popularity, but the fact that he is free to travel within the country to engage in charitable acts to help Cambodians affected by the floods has allowed him to be relatable and identifiable with opposition supporters who have increasingly shunned the likes of Rainsy and Sochua.
In another stark contrast, Rainsy, Sochua and their accomplices had not even tried to raise funds or send contributions to help ordinary Cambodians affected by the floods. To their chagrin, the defunct former CNRP is now very much in disarray and has lost its attraction to their erstwhile supporters, particularly those amongst the garment factory workers and students who felt betrayed by their selfish acts to call on the EU and other western powers to impose sanctions on Cambodia.
This was a costly miscalculation by the self-exiled opposition as it laid bare their selfish agenda of self-preservation over the interests of ordinary Cambodians, a naked contrast against that of the Cambodian authorities who were working alongside the various businesses, Khmer and foreign, to ensure that EBA remained intact to protect Cambodian jobs, livelihoods and sovereignty. Unlike Rainsy, Sochua and fellow ingrates, at least Sokha rightly refrained from calling for sanctions on his own country and people.
Perhaps that is why Sam Rainsy has not only kept silent in this latest round of posturing; he is finally aware he cannot be believed and has designated Sochua his talking horse. Yet, for someone who craves the international spotlight and would rather sacrifice his supporters’ welfare and wellbeing than the comfort of his Parisian lifestyle, it is a very rare act to have ceded the spotlight and limelight to Sochua.
Or are they hoping to create enough of a commotion to coincide with a change in leadership in the United States in January 2021 when President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the new president? A ‘wag the dog’ ploy to give their cause more attention, even if it risked invoking US sanctions on Cambodia and its people.
Mu Sochua was quoted by Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service that “women are gentler and more flexible and less confrontational than men,” hence the absence of Rainsy. Is this a gambit or a dare to the government, given the fact that in 2018, she was carried away by security officials for breaking the law and widely smiling at cameras while holding an apple in hand?
If so, Sochua and others would be the vanguard to face the music while Rainsy prances around out of reach to rally international support. Same old play, different actors. But they are still hoping for the same old audience to pay to watch the sorry excuse of a performance, once again.
From having been complicit in making lives difficult for the ordinary Cambodians, they have now elected to continue with their shenanigans in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought unwanted hardships and sufferings to Cambodia.
It is undeniable and irrefutable that the defunct CNRP pretenders’ main objective is to revive their fading political ambitions by once again trying to rally international attention to the political situation inside Cambodia, and leverage Western pressure to bring about change.
One senior patron at a café said half in jest that whether it is Sochua, Rainsy or any of the lying cowards who dare set foot in the Kingdom, they should just be sent to the stockade to serve their 14 days quarantine to make sure they are free from Covid-19, and then another 3 years to rid them of their compulsive lying personality disorder. Cowardice is incurable, he added to laughter all around.
Perhaps the authorities ought to heed this elderly gentleman’s eminently sensible suggestion.