Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cambodia Incertitudes and Hope

Free Opinion

At the end of the 12th summit of ASEAN(1) which was held in Cebu islands in the Philippines from 9 to 15 January 2007, the participants have signed a joint statement containing 28 recommendations of which the most important concerns the preparation of the draft of the «Charter of the South East Asian Community» in the European Community style. The draft will be examined in the next ASEAN summit which will take place in Singapore probably at the end of this year. The arrangement of this zone into a zone of free exchange should be realised by 2015.

The integration of all these countries with very different economic levels will certainly become a hard task. As a matter of fact the annual income per inhabitant, according to Clarita Carlos, ranges from 28.600US dollars for Singapore to 2.000US dollars for Laos. About 28% of the population of this country live with less than one US dollar per day. As for Cambodia, it is situated behind Laos with 33% of her population living under this bar of one US dollar US per day. Now, since the integration draft is being placed on the rails and its stake is becoming thus as highly important for Cambodia as for its other ASEAN’s partners, it would be interesting, at this step, to have a glimpse of the situation of our country to be ascertain where exactly we are and how we could progress further with the double guarantee of its survival and its secure integration inside this «South East Asian Community».

Under the appearance of stability, the country is in fact a prey to serious internal difficulties which could eventually generate into conflicts of great risks

The International Community has been so far much more implicated in Cambodia with the strong hope this country would get out from the circle of infernal dictatorship and open up to a genuine democracy. Placed second after the FUNCINPEC during the Untacist general elections of 1993, the CCP of communist obedience, thanks to its control of almost the whole country, has succeeded by non catholic means, from one election to another which follows every five years to progressively consolidate its state power to the detriment of its first partner, the FUNCINPEC which, undermined by its internal divisions, has now ended up with its complete dependence on the victorious CCP to survive. With the change last year of the voting system in the National Assembly replacing the two-third majority by the half plus one majority, any serious obstacle would not be able from now on to rise up anymore on the way of the CCP return to its original situation within the then «State of Cambodia».

This return is being masked behind the folding screen of democracy it smartly used, with the effective assistance of the juridical system fully at its mercy, to deceive from one step to another the donor countries and the International Community, to terrorise and muzzle the Opposition and in the course progressively reinforce its political control over the country. The principal leaders of the Opposition and Democracy finally founded themselves practically reduced to silence because the penal charges against them were suspended on their heads like the sword of Damocles.

This quasi monopoly of state power has given birth to a new class of opportunists who, thanks to their impunity totally covered by the state power, manage to make them richer to the detriment of the majority of the population who sustains a misery life. These new riches and those «very powerful» people coming from the Army or from the circle of the Power are grabbing by force the lands belonging to the inhabitants and selling them to the foreign investors.

Great land concessions with surfaces going beyond the limits authorised by the law in the majority of cases have been embezzled in favour of foreign companies without their initial incorporation in a global development plan of the country which apparently does not exist.

Organised gangs of jobless teenagers, the «Bâng Thom» and of drug consumers frequently clash between themselves, terrifying thus the populations in the towns. While in the Sangkum Reastr Niyum period, there were no mendicants, multitudes of children from both sexes without schooling because of lack of means, hardly excavate the public discharges with their families under the burning sun rays and under uninterested eyes of the new riches in order to survive. For the same reason, Khmer girls voluntarily commit themselves to prostitution or are forced to do so in foreign countries, or choose to become servants even slaves in foreign families outside the country. Others work there in painful conditions as regular workers or clandestine workers facing all sorts of difficulties to include the total dispossession of their meagre revenues at the moment of their forced repatriation. They were hundred of thousands.

The powerful and tenacious attempts by Vietnam to impose its overall influences on Cambodia without any reaction from the Khmer power which on the contrary endlessly shows its perpetual gratitude to Vietnam for having installed it in power in Cambodia completely mortgage the future and the political existence of the country

Since its invasion of Cambodia in January 1979, Vietnam never loses its control over this country it is attempting by all means possible to put under its control in the same manner it is doing to Laos.

During the ten-year occupation period of Cambodia from 1979 to 1989, it was devoting its efforts to transform this country into a satellite communist state completely in her obedience. In 1989, when it was compelled by the International Community to withdraw its occupation forces from Cambodia, Vietnam left behind, in order to perpetuate its control on the latter, its former military and civil executives who, disguised as Khmers, were disseminated in all the command systems of the country and this situation continues up to now.

During that occupation period of Cambodia, unequal and illegal treaties, because they were contrary to The International Law were imposed to Cambodia which had no means to oppose to the Vietnamese will. From 1989 up to now, and under constant pressures being made by the elements of the Vietnamese fifth column on the Khmer leaders in place, numerous bilateral engagements pertaining to various fields at the initiative of Vietnam were signed by both countries in order to give a façade of legality in the eye of the International Community. Those engagements placed Cambodia more and more under the de facto and legal dependency of Vietnam.

Among those bilateral engagements, there was one which caused deep and fierce opposition from Cambodians in the country and abroad. It concerned the additive treaty to the treaty of 1985, particularly disadvantageous to Cambodia that the chief of government, using threat, has succeeded to get it ratified by the highest institutions of the state in favour of Vietnam.

Since the ratification of this treaty, Vietnamese delegations succeeded one after another in Cambodia with the purpose of always strengthening «the bounds of eternal fraternity» between both countries. Very recently, after Sokimex, the Bank Canadia, the implantation of a Vietnamese hospital in Siemreap with its antenna and the project to build another hospital in Anlong Vèng and even a hospital complex in the capital, important land concessions have been granted to Vietnamese companies in certain of our provinces of which the province of Mondulkiri concerned with two other border provinces by the triangle development plan involving four border Vietnamese provinces, three bordering Khmer provinces and three bordering Laotian provinces.

It is to note that there are only 50.000 Cambodians living in our three provinces against 3 millions of Vietnamese living in the opposite four Vietnamese provinces, a ratio of one Cambodian against 60 Vietnamese! This plan is of Vietnamese initiative and will be piloted and executed by Vietnamese technicians with a beginning of aids received from Japan. On the Vietnamese side, there are already road infrastructures that has no their counterparts on the Cambodian side. Besides, border landmarks were not yet implanted at the frontier in that region. As has said the governor of Mondulkiri with the support of the Member of Parliament Son Chhay of the PSR, we are not prepared on our side to participate on good basis at this development plan. Bilateral cooperation of that sort have also been agreed upon regarding other Khmer provinces bordering Vietnam. So far, the royal government seems to have not yet elaborated a general development plan for these border regions.

Besides, our exports to Vietnam are exclusively made of agricultural products and other raw materials whereas Vietnamese finished products, otherwise their industrialised products, daily pass through the frontier to be discharged in the Khmer markets. To sum up, Cambodia is literally tied up politically and economically by Vietnam of which it largely depends.

The entry in the game of China with its bulky aids play a counterweight against the Vietnamese expansionist enterprises in place of Cambodians becoming bogged and resigned and in short of political and economical initiatives

South East Asia is a traditional zone of influence of China. The latter, all along its history, always has a watching look at what happens in that zone. China, a dominant Regional Power and a Great world Power, could not assist without any reaction at the much more growing influence of Vietnam over Cambodia. For her own security, it is not in her interest to see Vietnam realise the dream of uncle Ho to federate the three countries of the ex-Indochina under the Vietnamese banner and become further her challenging Regional Power.

To this regard, Cambodia constitutes a strategic point of great importance for her. She has proven in a recent past when she invaded North Vietnam in order to punish the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia of the Khmers Rouges who were then her protégés. Vietnam itself has always been and is considered as a strategic point of greater importance for the USA and Japan which are actively seeking to court it. Being used to be subjected to the Chinese influence all along its history, Vietnam seems for the time being to adopt a policy of prudence that allows it to keep a certain distance vis-à-vis China and in the same time prevents it from provoking the susceptibility and the irritations of China.

Concerning Cambodia, this imposing Chinese break through while contributing to indirectly neutralise the Vietnamese ambition against her,would risk in the long run to see both antagonistic Vietnamese and Chinese tendencies re-emerged, reaffirmed and radicalised in the command systems of the country and become a new source of possible conflicts if the economic interests did not get the upper hand on this very dangerous antagonism. It is to note that China not only invests in Cambodia but it does also substantially in neighbouring Laos and Myanmar, certainly for the same reasons as for Cambodia and in the same manner in other countries in South East Asia.

But vis-à-vis Vietnam, also its neighbour, China ranks itself far away behind a great number of investing countries at the top of which stands Japan. The Vietnamese reticence to China’s investments seems motivated by the desire of Vietnam to not too much depend on China and to look at other horizons where it could find with certain independence the sources and the means of its development.

Political maneuvers in the Cambodian political exchequer: stagnation in the defence of democratic values and irresistible march of the Power in place towards totalitarism and autocraticism

As it has been briefly said above, the UNO and the donor countries which have granted important aids each year to Cambodia are seeking to promote Democracy and the respect of Human Rights in this country. These principles are defended by the Opposition forces as well as by the Non Governmental Organisations. Approximately half of their total amount is used to pay foreign personnel in charge of coordinating with the royal government in this question of aids whereas a part of the other half disappears in the pockets of corrupted government officials.

From one year to another, the conditions imposed for the reception and the use of these aids are not generally respected. To cite an example, the draft of the law anti-corruption considered everywhere as essential for Cambodia drags on since more than ten years and each time delays to land on the offices of the National Assembly. The judiciary independence is no more than a vain word and because of this situation many persons in the ranks of the Opposition had had to endure greater and painful sufferings.

Up to now, if we draw a balance of progresses made in the establishment of the State of Law in Cambodia, of the practice of Democracy and of the respect of Human Rights, these progresses appear relatively meagre compared to the results obtained by the Party in power in its opposite efforts to consolidate its regime. The latter used to arrive at this end threats and non catholic methods to neutralise and manipulate the Opposition forces. It is now proceeding freely on the way to totalitarism and autocraticism. This half setback throws doubt in the spirit of those who work for Democracy.

Vital necessity for all political parties in the Khmer political exchequer to get along with each other on a common national strategy to assure the survival of Cambodia integrate her in good conditions in the future “South East Asian Community”

The UNO and the International Community, by implicating themselves in force in Cambodia, had for objective to convert the communists in democrats. As a result the communist regime became by the way legalised, reinforced and accepted and Cambodia, under the pressure of the Power in place, manipulated in turn by their Vietnamese patrons, has been compelled to cede a part of her territorial integrity, terrestrial and maritime to dominating Vietnam. It was a real fiasco for the UNO and the International Community and a disaster for Cambodia. This situation is unsustainable and should not continue this way anymore. It is of most importance to find out without delay for Cambodia, a remedy to this alarming situation. This requires a search and the subsequent adoption of a new consensual national strategy; the latter would normally take into account the following considerations:

1 – It appears clear and totally logical that as for China, the great influential Power in the region, she would certainly have interest from theoretical, pragmatic and security point of view as well as by solidarity between regimes sharing the same ideology that the communist regimes in Vietnam, in Cambodia (for lack of better solution) and in Laos continue to last as hers. As for Cambodia, because she has no other alternatives to offer at the present step, China would very well accommodate with the maintenance of the present Cambodian communist regime and would have no other means than devoting her efforts to reinforce smaller and smaller her influence within the command structure of Cambodia. Because she succeeds in her economic overture to the outside world with the maintenance of internal communist discipline, it seems that there is nothing, at least for the time being, which comes to modify such a political Chinese orientation.

It would be useless, at first view and before long, to try to push the four communist states towards a radical reversal of this political alignment among themselves for the benefice of the democracy of the Occident style. Besides, Vietnam, by interest and solidarity, will be there to maintain with iron hands this “fraternal”Cambodian regime which is affiliated to its own.

2 – Cambodia, in this communist configuration, fortunately has a situation apart.Theoretically, she is a kingdom, not a communist state. But in fact she is governed by a regime of communist structures. In virtue of the clauses of the Paris Peace Accords of October 23, 1991 and of her own Constitution, Cambodia is a perpetual neutral and non aligned country. Unfortunately, she has arrived at the present alarming situation because of the combination of two essential facts, the Vietnamese expansionist policy to her detriment (and to that of Laos also) and the acceptance without protestation of the Vietnamese domination although this has been done at the price of the loss of her national independence, of her sovereignty and of her territorial integrity.

In fact both Vietnam and Cambodia deliberately violate the neutrality and the non alignment of Cambodia guarantied by both above mentioned juridical instruments. So far, the political approaches of the Opposition forces generally stress on the promotion and the defence of democratic values of the Occident style they wish to see definitely and durably implanted in Cambodia whereas facts (see at point 1) show that it is not easy for them to assault the communist citadels. The aspirations that animate these political approaches are certainly of noblest essence and most desirable but fact is there and it is stubborn. Would not be opportune for the Khmer patriots to revise that strategy and consequently rectify the shooting? If we examine closely the question, we will see that the central question is, after the invasion followed by the occupation of Cambodia, a member state of the UNO, by her more powerful neighbour, Vietnam, equally member of UNO, from 1979 to 1989, the deliberated violation of the Neutrality of Cambodia by the same country which, in addition, is one of the co-signatories of the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia of October 23, 1991 and by Cambodia herself because of her passivity and her alignment to Vietnam. That is the fundamental question. The just, correct, and good approach for the political parties of the Khmer political exchequer, to include the CCP which is the Party in power, would consist for these parties, if they really wanted to save Cambodia, of shielding behind the constitutional legality and commonly agreeing on THE RESPECT OF THE NEUTRALITY AND THE NON ALIGNMENT OF CAMBODIA.

To respect the Neutrality and the Non-alignment of Cambodia means to respect the Constitution of the kingdom. It is vital for this country that they agree on this point. Once this common view is acquired, appropriated political and diplomatic efforts will normally be addressed at the initiative of the royal government to the UNO, to both Coprésidents and to other countries co-signatories of the Paris Peace Accords aiming at pulling back Cambodia to her original status of a strictly neutral and non aligned country. China, at the opportune request that His Majesty the King Father would be willing to make, could play an important role with the USA and the European Community and ASEAN as well to favour the search for that solution. It is to note that the instauration of the state of law in Cambodia, the practice of Democracy and the respect of Human Rights highly desired and expected by everybody notably by the UNO, the International Community and the Cambodian people themselves would likely have more chance to succeed with the re-establishment of the status of strict neutrality and non alignment of Cambodia more than with the maintenance of the Khmer communist system in obedience to Vietnam.

Besides, it is a fact that since many years already, the Cambodians of the Diaspora, either in the name of their associations, either in separated groups or either individually, had intervened in vain to the UNO and to the countries signatories of the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia to denounce the violations and the territorial amputations perpetrated by Vietnam to the prejudice of Cambodia as well as the violations of Human Rights in this country.

In 2005, at the heights of these denunciations, only the second volley of these denunciations was more or less successful in sensitizing and mobilising the International Community. On the contrary, the first volley of these denunciations which concerns the survival of Cambodia had caused no any international reaction. Why? – Because the second volley had directly touched the sensitive cord of the International Community and the donor countries which directly implicated in it whereas the first volley which did not emanate from the royal government of Cambodia, otherwise from a member of the UNO, cannot be taken into consideration and that is logic and understandable. That is why it is important that the Khmers patriots and nationalists inside and outside the country change their perception of the situation and elaborate a new strategy of combat aiming at mobilising their efforts to put pressure on the royal government and make it revise its position in regard to the Constitution of the kingdom and subsequently take the salutary initiative to strictly respect the Neutrality and the Non-alignment of Cambodia.

In this perspective,the Khmer Diaspora will have an important role to play in the mobilisation of theircompatriots as well as in their effort to sensitize the concerned Great Powers such as China,the USA and the European Community notably France and all the ASEAN countries for the realisation of that objective.

3 – China has in the past always supported the neutrality of Cambodia. She has been the first friendly country to grant such a support to Cambodia without hesitation. At this time, the historical defender of the neutrality of Cambodia, His Majesty the King Father, who is her faithful friend, is within her walls. Because of excellent relations entertained since two millenniums between China and Cambodia and also for strategic motivations, China would be certainly tempted to support such a common initiative eventually made by the Cambodian royal government and other Khmer political actors to other partners, including ASIAN countries if the circumstances would allow her to do so.

The USA has always fought the communists. They have signed with 16 other countries the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia. It is true that regional interest confrontations as well as strategic motivations are susceptible to cause this approach more difficult to realise. But Cambodia has so so much suffered and risks at this very moment to get lost. Would the USA, in this condition, accept to see Cambodia with her great and so prestigious past, absorbed by the expansionist Vietnam? Let’s hope that at the extreme limit, the USA would not oppose to the return of Cambodia to her original status of strict neutrality which would rather offer the advantage to see, and what are their wishes and those of the International Community, a genuine State of Law be implanted in Cambodia and the practice of Democracy and the respect of Human Rights be promoted in this unfortunate country.

As for the European Community and ASEAN where the majority of countries were signatories of the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia of October 23, 1991, they could not, for these above mentioned reasons, do otherwise than manifest their approval on this unanimous approach of the royal government and other political Khmer actors. It is to note that France, Co president of the Conference that produced these Accords and with which Cambodia maintains excellent relations has always in the past actively supported the neutrality of Cambodia. Under the insistent pressure of all these countries, there is hope that Vietnam would at the last moment consent to render the freedom to Cambodia. Then, Cambodia, with her new riches coming from the exploitation of her black gold and become again and as before friendly with all the countries in the world to include Vietnam with which she only asks to live in peace and in good neighbourhood could legitimately ambition to mutate herself as a South East Asia’s Switzerland.

With the consensus realised at that moment among her children, it would be possible for her to tend towards this marvellous and tempting objective. The adherence to this view should necessarily come up with the setting up of a unifying and mobilising body which could be for example called «Front for the Respect of the Neutrality and the Security of Cambodia» (FRNSC) and an international component opened to foreign personalities of good will and which could be for example named “International Support for the Respect of the Neutrality and the Security of Cambodia”(ISRNSC).

Both bodies will combine their political, diplomatic and media means to put pressure on the Royal Government of Cambodia and in the same time sensitize the governments of all countries signatories of the Paris Peace Accords of October 23, 1991 as well as the International Community with the objective of pulling back Cambodia to her real status of a country authentically neutral and non aligned and in the same time committing her immediate neighbours to scrupulously respect the neutrality and the non alignment of this country. It is at this condition that Cambodia could envisage her integration in the «South East Asian Community» with great assurance and with an expected promising future for her children and their descendents.

(1) ASEAN : Association of South East Asian Nations created en 1967 at the height of Vietnam war, initially tofight against communism. The following 10 countries are its members with the respective year of their adhesion : Indonesia (1967), Malaysia (1967), Philippines (1967), Singapore (1967), Thailand (1967), Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos (1997), Myanmar ex-Burma (1997) et Cambodia (1999).
January 19, 2007

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