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Thailand should be wary of Cambodian rebels

flickr/David McKelvey - wikimedia/Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer

Thailand has been chosen by Cambodian rebels, led by Sam Rainsy to be their political stronghold to launch a colour revolution in Cambodia.

The decision of the Thai authorities  to deny entry for Mu Sochua, a senior leader of the outlawed opposition party, was the right move. The decision was made in response to Cambodia’s request.

Cambodia has issued arrest warrants against senior leaders of the outlawed opposition party and calls them criminals and rebels.

Cambodia and Thailand have worked closely in supporting each other to enforce the rule of law, exchange information and coordinate actions to prevent hostile forces from using their respective territories against the interest of another state.

Thailand will get affected more than any other Southeast Asian country if there is political instability or crisis in Cambodia. Currently, there are about two million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. They have contributed to the Thai economy.

Imagine if there are two million refugees, not just workers, from Cambodia to Thailand? How would the Thai government respond to this humanitarian crisis? Is Thailand willing to receive Cambodian refugees again like in the 1980s?

Some Thai politicians and opinion writers  think that without Sam Rainsy, there is no democracy in Cambodia. It can be  put  this way,  Sam Rainsy is the dictator of democracy. Without him there is no democracy and stability.

The general election in 2018, without the participation of the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), went smoothly. More than 80 percent of the registered  voters casted their ballots in a free manner. There was neither threat nor violence.

This overwhelming turnout, despite the call for a boycott by Rainsy, shows that the people want to and will exercise their right to vote and choose the government.

Political stability and economic dynamism continue. Institutional reforms have been undertaken with new momentum, especially in fighting against corruption. The social and economic wellbeing of the people has improved. Policy consultation between the political parties, civil society, private corporations and the government continue to bear fruit.

Democracy is a process or a means towards achieving peace, stability and development. That is the meaning of democracy.

Cambodia and Thailand share similar political issues arising from political polarisation and extremism. There is no room for political tolerance and reconciliation with  populist, extremist and  rebellious politicians.

Can the Thai government tolerate and reconcile with a politician who calls for the armed forces to rebel against a legitimate government? Of course not. What Cambodia is trying to do now is to prevent Cambodia from relapsing into political instability and upheaval.

Political compromise and reconciliation can happen only if all parties show goodwill, respect the Constitution, and take actions conducive for dialogue. In this aspect, Sam Rainsy and his clique have crossed the red line by insulting His Majesty the King and calling upon the armed forces to “turn the cannon” against the government.

Peace and stability in post-conflict Cambodia remains fragile because of  some extremely  dangerous and volatile  moves being taken by Sam Rainsy and his clique together with complex foreign intervention.

Some foreigners still do not understand the realities in Cambodia. They tend to view Cambodia from the perspective of the Cold War perspective. They still perceive that the current regime in Cambodia is a communist regime.

Cambodia is not a communist state, by any standards. It has embraced free market economy and a multi-party political system since the 1990s. The United Nations spent USD2 billion to organize the first democratic general election.

Thailand is a good neighbour of Cambodia. Both are members of Asean and other sub-regional mechanisms. The leaders of both countries understand each other and work towards a better future for the people of both countries.

Some Thai politicians and opinion writers who are sceptics of Cambodia should visit Cambodia more frequently and try to talk to local stakeholders in order to  understand the dynamics of Cambodia’s politics before passing judgement.

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