A Politician’s Platform of Ideology, Not Votes

Alan Parkhouse / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Khem Veasna wants to change people’s thinking rather than get votes. Supplied

Khem Veasna is the founder and president of the League for Democracy Party (LDP), one of the smaller parties contesting next year’s commune elections and the national elections in 2018. He started his party after splitting from the Sam Rainsy Party in 2006 and has often been an outspoken critic of the government and opposition. He talked to Khmer Times’ Alan Parkhouse about his hopes for Cambodia, the role he wants his party to play and the changes he’d like to make to the prime minister’s job.
 
KT: Are you hoping to get a lot of votes in the elections next year and the year after?
 
Mr. Veasna: We care about the ignorance of the people. We want to develop critical thinking. We don’t care about votes. If you care about votes, you will find many ways to get the votes. Some of those ways are not good ways. I don’t say, people vote for LDP. I say, if we agree with the LDP’s ideology, we put our vote in the box to count how many people think like us. Not vote for the LDP. That’s why we say this is a revolution in Cambodia, because you have to understand about the LDP before you join the LDP.
 
KT: Where is your main support base? Is it farmers and people in rural areas, students or businesspeople?
 
Mr. Veasna: Young people. It’s the young people in Cambodia who support our party.
 
KT: Do you think the people of Cambodia really want change?
 
Mr. Veasna: We don’t care about who supports us, who needs change. We want to spread our ideology. We think that is important for poor people. We don’t care – this is a good point about the LDP that is different from the others. We care only about the happiness or the sadness of the people. We don’t care about the votes. This is what makes us different from other parties.
 
KT: How do you think your party will fare in the commune elections next year and the national elections the year after. Do you think you can win any seats?
 
Mr. Veasna: We are not worried about that. We just want people to understand our ideology. We tell people about the danger in Cambodia because of the centralization of the power to the prime minister. So, if you want to help our country you have to reduce the power of the prime minister. I want to tell people about the danger of centralization.
 
We have a mechanism that is our main political platform to reduce the power of the prime minister. And we talk about religion – what is the difference between Buddhist teaching and the religion you believe every day? Another thing we talk about is critical thinking. We talk about philosophy to make people understand about the value of us humans.
 
KT: What changes would you make to the prime minister’s job if you could?
 
Mr. Veasna: We want to put a mechanism in public administration – that is the platform for the LDP. You know, the law nowadays is not the law. Because laws always make people afraid. But the prime minister, because prime ministers have too much power, they are not afraid of the law.
 
KT: Why did you the leave the Sam Rainsy Party?
 
Mr. Veasna: We can say we had different views on solutions to the problems in Cambodia. We had different views, we had different tactics. So we had to leave because we are politicians. When we could not follow our ideas, how could we stay there? We had different views, so we had to leave.
 
KT: Was there a big difference in opinions between you and Sam Rainsy?
 
Mr. Veasna: The Sam Rainsy Party always followed the people because they needed votes. But for me, we tried to lead people, even though sometimes the people don’t agree with us, even though we thought we were right. But the Sam Rainsy Party needed votes. The main point that is different between me and Sam Rainsy is what happened in our hearts. We are different about the reactions that we had to have to the government.
 
We can say the Sam Rainsy Party had a hard approach. But for me, I think that is very dangerous in Cambodia. Now where is Sam Rainsy? We care about the people. But for Sam Rainsy, they don’t care. That’s why I say what is very different is what comes from our hearts.
 
KT: Do you have enough funds and candidates for the next two elections?
 
Mr. Veasna: We collect money from our supporters. Even poor farmers join our party but we don’t say donations because that is participation. We want to realize our dream. Now we can have big events and spend a lot of money, like $100,000. We can do it because of participation. It’s very hard for the people to understand, but this is the reality.
 
KT: Is it a bigger priority for your party to get your ideology out than it is to get votes?
 
Mr. Veasna: We don’t care about the votes. We care about the people understanding that if you reduce their power to make a balance between people and their representatives, like the prime minister, and better laws. The law cannot scare him [the prime minister] these days.
So we want to put a mechanism in the administration to make a balance between the people and their representative. So, everything will change, not voluntarily, but by law. The law will have an effect on the prime minister, but now there is no effect.
 
KT:  What do you think will happen in the commune elections next year? Which party do you think will win?
 
Mr. Veasna: We don’t focus on that too much. We care only about how we can spread our ideology. We want to get some time on air, more and more to spread our ideology. Getting the vote is not our self-interest, it’s helping the people. We pay a lot of attention to helping the people get our information.
 
KT: Do you think the government will lose the national election?
 
Mr. Veasna: I think they will lose some seats. Also, I think the CNRP will lose some seats. But the CPP will not lose the election – I don’t think so.
 
KT: Do you think it would be a good thing for Cambodia if the CPP did lose and a new government came into power?
 
Mr. Veasna: No. No. No. That’s very dangerous. That would be like a bomb. The government is like a bomb. You have to understand the real situation of Cambodia. When you are a politician you have to deal with the bomb. You have to understand – we don’t care about who wins. But we care about Cambodia winning. When the majority of the people understand that, Mr. Hun Sen or that government will follow the people. If he cannot change himself, he will lose.
 
So we explain to the people about a good administration organized by the LDP. When the people understand about that, Mr. Hun Sen will follow them. This is the way that we help our country because Mr. Hun Sen is like a bomb. Very dangerous. If a new government comes they cannot ignore Mr. Hun Sen. He is the key to the peace in Cambodia. I don’t say a good key or a bad key.
 
KT: Do you think Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP have done a good job as a government?
 
Mr. Veasna: No. If they were good already, we don’t need to organize the party. We don’t agree with them. We criticize a lot. If you understand Cambodian language you will know my speeches. I criticize a lot, but a very soft approach and very honestly from the bottom of my heart. Not like Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha.
 
KT: Do you think the CNRP takes too hard a line and is too critical of the government?
 
Mr. Veasna: I say Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha cannot change their minds. If you want to beat the CPP, you have to change the opposition party first. This is my view. I have said this since I left the Sam Rainsy Party until now. I trust myself, I trust my views, I trust my ideology.
 
KT: So if the people vote in a majority for the CNRP, you don’t think that party is capable of forming a government?
 
Mr. Veasna: No. Absolutely not. No, No. Very dangerous. Even if Mr. Hun Sen agreed to hand over that power peacefully, of course the human resources of the CNRP has never been educated about morality. Not different from the CPP. Their human resourcea are the same as the CPP. But different from the LDP. At the LDP we educate our members every day. We care about the value of the people and we don’t care about the votes.
 
KT: How many supporters does your party have?
 
Mr. Veasna: I’m not sure, but I know more and more. For example, every year I go to [South] Korea to organize a public forum there. More and more people join us. And the money we collect from supporters here and there is getting more and more. Nowdays we get about $10,000 every month from the supporters in [South] Korea. Last year we got about $6,000 only. More and more people are joining our public forum in Korea. In Cambodia too it is more and more. We need bigger headquarters than what we have now.

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