|Hu Jintao and Hun Sen [Xinhua]|
|Obama shaking hand with Hun Sen [SE Asia Weekly]|
|"Bald-headed analyst" at large|
by School of Vice
Being the longest serving "Prime Minister" in Asia must be taking its toll on a man who has long since been groomed in manners of dress code and appearance to pass himself fit for a worldly statesman in place of once accustomed Ho Chi Minh sandals and black/olive pyjamas worn by the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge guerrillas – of whom Hun Sen himself was one - during the last century. Not that it had been easy for him or his advisors and PR gurus to persuade him of the necessity of such personal make-over or cosmetic transformation! As late as the 1990s the man would turn up at public functions like one of those imported Thai fashion shows at a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh looking as casually attired as a rice farmer in Svay Rieng attending to his manual tasks, all the while puffing cigarette like a chimney. A kind of ingrained stubbornness is not uncommon in people: we sometimes ourselves deliberately inculcate it through our behaviour and mannerism as a gesture of resistance or defiance against external demands or refusal to make compromise on some sort of inner beliefs or self-perception, especially, where there is no real axe to grind. Well-known Hollywood stars and celebrities could turn up at any venues looking as casual as they wish without submitting to the etiquette requirements and pomp of the occasion. The contrast, however, between the express importance attached to the occasion, and this insistence on enacted narcissism serves to illustrate only too well the subject's individual disregard for the underlying rules of social engagement, not to speak of that egoistic and narcissistic streak that seeks and finds psychological gratification and satisfaction in exploiting that contrast.
For Mr Hun Sen, it appears, the higher the stake in terms of profile and importance of the occasion the greater the possibility of making the contrast works to the flavour of his egoistical whims. Thus, at an earlier ASEAN gathering in Jakarta he silenced his co-summit attendees with his outburst directed at the then Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for - among other things - using the superior resources of his larger nation [Thailand] to bully a much smaller, weaker Cambodia. Moreover, if this vitriolic outburst of his were justified in context and essence, then most fair-minded people of the world might be more than inclined to overlook the crudeness of his attack. After all, the outward civility and pleasantries exchanged within diplomatic circles or "talking shops" such as ASEAN - whatever it claims to aspire to - offer no real evidence of the Association's political will or unity of purpose needed to overcome the grinding daily plight of their populations in the millions who continue to struggle to survive in this otherwise resource-rich region. Even ‘economic growth’ and ‘affluence’ in some or most of these countries have not been accompanied by any signs of real positive developments in the political, social sphere: most ASEAN members are governed - at a variance - by outright military dictatorships like Cambodia and Burma, and by semi-autocracies like Thailand and Singapore where political power and economic wealth still firmly rest in the hands of tightly affiliated, exclusively walled and repressively organised bands of oligarchs like Mr Hun Sen himself and most of his immediate supporters who benefit politically and economically by way of his reflected glory. If you are a human being living in any of these countries, don't be poor, fall ill, contest a court case against someone else who has the means to bribe the judges and buy the officials; and even if you are fairly well-off, it pays to mind your own business and let your less fortunate fellows carry their own crosses from the cradle to the grave yards without your interference.
Thus, how hypocritical of him to have chided Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva on the impropriety of the strong preying upon the weak when he himself in his long political life and career had hardly missed a single opportunity to literally steamroll his political opponents; reject the democratic mandate of the electorate by shooting down and exiling off the election winners; and by having gone as far as terrorising the population through random assassinations and grenade attacks against defenceless men, women and children? Done and dusted? Look forward and move on instead of living in the past? Try telling that to the victims' relatives, and besides, what kind of future do we have to look forward to when none of the culprits have ever been brought to justice? The silence is deafening . . .
With regard to Mr Hun Sen's persistent reference to one mysterious "bald-headed independent analyst", it befits no one, let alone the leader of a country before the attention of global media at this recent regional summit, to make such vulgar remark, and even if it had been meant as a joke it would have been made in the poorest taste possible. The fact that a person is ‘bald-headed’ has no bearing whatsoever on his mental or intellectual ability or judgement, just as being physically blind in one eye or both is no indication of one's ability to ‘see’ and grasp things beyond one's physical disabilities. Further, if the poor "bald-headed analyst" in question had addressed or responded in kind by referring to Mr Hun Sen publicly in similarly derogatory fashion, or had threatened to "close the doors to beat the dog" on him [Hun Sen], his [the analyst's] life would have been in imminent jeopardy.
The embarrassment that Mr Hun Sen has thus brought to bear upon himself and his country has been rightly noted; that instead of focusing on the burning or simmering issues at hand such as the tension over the South China Sea quarrel and economic development and co-operation within ASEAN, he appeared to use much of the by-summit press conference dwelling upon domestic matters and notoriously venting his frustration against domestic critics of his handling of China-ASEAN dispute [or at least, the dispute between China and those ASEAN members with claims over parts of the South China Sea]. But the extent and scope of this embarrassment really goes further, touching - and to a varying extent - implicating everyone involved [including China, the US, ASEAN, Vietnam, and the UN] who over the past three decades have seen it fit to accept his presence in their respective folds and even justified and encouraged that presence through uninterrupted annual aid flows and loans which he has cunningly exploited not only to strengthen that presence as an indispensible link in their stratagems, but also to further consolidate his domestic political control at home vis a vis the Cambodian people who had made their feelings to the world known through the only [relatively] “free and fair election” held under UN supervision in 1993. Thus, to paraphrase the title of a “Buffalax” or “misheard” Vietnamese video pop song: “Will they hire high fool?” the inescapable and logical conclusion is that “They already have hired him” and, they deserve every bit of embarrassment he is now causing them!