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A tale of two cities

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In his novel “A Tale of Two Cities”, a well-known historical novelist, Charles Dickens, wrote, ”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”

This is quite a reminiscent of Cambodian politics.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has made an extraordinary decision to grant former opposition leader Kem Sokha freedom to meet people and travel within the country. He is still though legally restricted from involving in politics and travelling abroad.

Kem Sokha has made use of the freedom to meet people, except Cambodian opposition party activists and in rapid fire with foreign ambassadors to Cambodia.

The intention and comments made by the diplomats who met with Sokha were quite consistent. They would like to see Sokha to stay healthy and be able to freely participate in Cambodian politics.

The meeting between the US Ambassador Patrick Murphy and Sokha was the most remarkable given Ambassador Murphy gave a short news briefing right after the meeting. He called for the dropping of charges against Sokha and give full freedom and liberty to all Cambodian political activities both within and outside the country.

Although the US ambassador stepped outside the parameters of his diplomatic role, he very clearly did not mention the name of Sam Rainsy and the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This is regarded as a positive and welcome message.

Sometimes certain foreign diplomats and human rights activists overstep Cambodia’s sovereignty. The UN Human Rights rapporteur Rhona Smith in particular has taken a biased view on Cambodia.

Some analysts have argued that the exuberance of Sokha’s conditional freedom as a sign of capitulation by Prime Minister Hun Sen over the fears of Rainsy’s return. This is mere perception. The main political message is to gradually resume national reconciliation based on the spirit of political trust and the rule of law.

Rainsy and his nexus of henchmen know very well that they have no place in Cambodian politics. They will face the consequences of their actions. They continue to bash Cambodia in any forum or platform they get. Rainsy himself wants to be in the international and regional spotlight.

Rainsy is the key reason for Cambodia negotiating with the EU over the threat to suspend trade preferential treatment, Everything-But-Arms (EBA) deal. Rainsy is also the reason for the fractious and divided politics in Cambodia which took root way back in 1998 with street politics to further their agenda and gain concessions from the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Each act of good faith by the CPP is taken as a sign of weakness on the part of the government and they push the limits of the CPP’s patience, throwing into disarray, the dynamics of Cambodian politics.

Here is where Sokha’s calm and mature politics will triumph over Rainsy’s hollow political rhetoric and soundbites. For Cambodian politics to be strengthened and for his version of democracy to mature and to enable multiparty representation in the National Assembly, there must be political leaders who possess goodwill and good faith.

There is no space nor place for Rainsy and his merry bunch of political renegades. They crossed the red line by insulting the King and calling him to abdicate as well as offering bribes to men and women of our armed forces to turn their weapons against a legitimate government.

Just because he was feted by some of Malaysia’s political leaders who coincidentally are members of the coalition government, Rainsy has trampled on the goodwill built by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Hun Sen since the former’s first mandate as premier of Malaysia.

If he was a brave man, true to his words, he would have taken a direct flight to Cambodia. He and his bunch of minions played on technicalities and entered Malaysia, after having managed to persuade some Malaysian politicians of his presumed innocence and intentions.

If he and his cohorts were indeed ready to sacrifice, they should have entered Cambodia through direct flights from any countries in Southeast Asia, under full international media coverage because he loves his face and the sound of his voice and would not try a diversionary tactic which has brought disrepute to the Asean noninterference policy and intra-Asean ties.

Those who feted him in Malaysia and to some extent in Indonesia, have caused damage to Asean unity and bilateral friendship between the two countries. Their actions are consequential.

Rainsy had hoodwinked the people because no EU parliamentarians nor US congressmen and senators accompanied him on his short sojourn in Asean.

Just a petition by some misled EU parliamentarians was enough for Rainsy to milk the statement for every gramme of publicity he can get.

In the final analysis, Rainsy’s words and fiery rhetoric did not translate into action on the ground. He rather would be a tourist in Malaysia and Indonesia instead of   boarding a flight to Cambodia. His reason for not returning to Cambodia is purely his inner weakness. He is really a coward.

Cambodia had called on Asean member states to arrest and deport Rainsy and 11 others to Cambodia. They did not and never have asked Asean states to prevent him from returning. Herein is the gross misinterpretation of technicalities of those who received Rainsy and his cohorts.

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