A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Koh Pich tragedy and Hun Sen’s crocodile tears

Op-Ed by Khmerization
30th November, 2010

"His sadness, condolences and mourning seem too genuine and instantaneous. However, to seasoned and veteran political observers.... His grief is fake and his tears are crocodile tears."

Three days after the Koh Pich Bridge stampede tragedy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has been seen around the world’s television screens as having cried uncontrollably for the first time.

To the novice observers of the current Cambodian political affairs, this is an extraordinary scene for a strongman who has been described as having a heart of steel, who is well-known for his brutality and arrogance, to look like a broken man for the first time in his life. His sadness, condolences and mourning seem too genuine and instantaneous. However, to seasoned and veteran political observers of Mr. Hun Sen’s political career and his political maneuverings, Mr. Hun Sen had put up an excellent show to fool the Cambodian people and the world. His grief is fake and his tears are crocodile tears.

The above rationale has been proven correct by his speech on Monday. Seven days after the tragedy and four days after he had put up a public show of emotions, Mr. Hun Sen turned around and declared that no one was responsible for the tragedy and that no head will be rolled. And adding insult to injuries, he had rejected the resignation of Mr. Kong Sam Ol, who is the chairman of the National and International Festival Committee, the body responsible for organizing and managing the Water Festival that caused the stampede.

With the magnitude of the tragedy described as the world’s worst crowd disaster in 4 years, one would have expected that some sort of accountability and culpability be apportioned. Yet, despite an admission of a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’, Mr. Hun Sen arrogantly declared that no one will be sacked and punished because it is an unforeseen accident occurred because of a ‘carelessness and negligence’ of the government.

Mr. Hun Sen’s admission of a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’ because of a ‘carelessness and negligence’ of the government is an admission of guilt and wrongdoing and therefore the onus is on the government and Mr. Hun Sen personally. For a tragedy of this magnitude which is a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’ of a government, the buck stops here with the government and the head of the government, that is to say the government and the whole cabinet must resign, starting with Prime Minister Hun Sen first.

There seem to be a cover up at the highest level to the investigation and the cause of the tragedy. The committee, set up immediately after the tragedy to investigate the cause of the stampede, hastily concluded its investigation in just one day and publicly released its findings exactly one week later. Despite eyewitness accounts of about 30-odd people having been electrocuted, the government denied the claims and the investigation concluded that swaying bridge was the cause of the panic which led to the stampede.

In the West, the investigation into the tragedy of this magnitude will take months, even years, to complete. All evidences will be examined and witnesses interviewed and no stones will be left unturned.

The investigation into the Koh Pich Bridge stampede lacks substance, lacks transparency and credibility. It is doubtful if even 20% of the 8,000 witnesses, that was the number of people who got stuck on the bridge, were interviewed. There is no sign of physical evidences had been examined and analysed and there is no sign of autopsies being performed on the corpses to determine the causes of deaths.

People must remember that Koh Pich Island and Koh Pich bridge are owned by Mr. Hun Sen’s wife and his children and Canadia Bank, which Mr. Hun Sen’s family is the majority shareholder. As a result, Mr. Hun Sen and his family had to be personally and directly responsible for this tragedy also.

By admitting that the tragedy was a 'joint mistake’ and a ‘joint responsibility’ of the government and with mounting evidences pointing to carelessness and cover up at the highest level, the buck stops with Mr. Hun Sen. And to show that his grief and emotions are genuine and in respect to the souls of 351 dead and 329 wounded in the stampede, Mr. Hun Sen and the whole of his cabinet should do the honorable thing and resign.


Anonymous said...

It would be naive fo readers and public to actually expect PM Hun Sen to sack anyone as no such customary practrice ever exists in the CPP led government since over a decade due to patronage and cryonism. Life goes on and Koh Pich development would be ensured to carry on for this is "Family Investments at stake"...

Anonymous said...

Hun Sen was not a democratically elected PM (he cheated to win), therefore he is not accountable to the laws, the parliament and the people. In a democratically elected government, the whole cabinet, especially the PM, will have to resign with high numbers of deaths like this. Hun Sen had admitted it is a joint mistake, but he refused to sack anyone or resign and that the Koh Pich developments, his family's estate, will go on without delay. To him, his wealth is more important than the life of the 351 dead and 329 wounded. Like the article said, his tears and grief are not genuine, but fake. Yes, they are crocodile tears.