|Cheang Vun (R) curses like his boss, Hun Sen (L)- like leader like subordinate- they are both gangsters!.|
17th November, 2012
Chheang Vun’s racial vilification against the tribal Phnong people and his racist slur against opposition leader Kem Sokha has put him in hot political water again.
His racist outburst inside the parliament on Wednesday 14th November, which was demeaning by any standard, has denigrated one of the highest institutions he represents for it has not sanctioned his atrocious remarks and has instead condoned his abhorrent actions.
A controversial politician, a rude diplomat and a trouble-maker, Chheang Vun has been in the limelight since he returned to join the Cambodian People’s Party in around 1989. In 1992, when he was chairman of the Finance Committee of the parliament under the State of Cambodia regime, he had caused discontent among the ruling CPP because of his (mis)management of the finance.
But what kind of a politician was/is Chheang Vun?
Chheang Vun was a trouble-maker from the start since his return to Cambodia in around 1989, causing a lot of headaches in within the ruling CPP.
Confrontation with Hun Sen
Mr. Chheang Vun has confided, in the presence of this writer, to Prince Norodom Sirivudh during their meeting in Canberra in 1998, that after the 1993 election he had a verbal altercation with Hun Sen because Mr. Hun Sen was not happy with the way he manages and leads the parliamentary Finance Committee. During the heated exchanges, Mr. Hun Sen banged the table at Mr. Chheang Vun and Mr. Chheang Vun banged the table in return. Mr. Hun Sen was so enraged that someone, let alone a person of Chheang Vun’s stature, dare to challenge his authority that he gave an ultimatum for Mr. Chheang Vun to leave Cambodia within one month or he will face the consequences.
Mr. Chheang Vun went to Mr. Chea Sim for a back up, telling him “sir, you are the president of the CPP, can you overrule Hun Sen who is the vice-president?” Chea Sim replied that he dare not get in the way of Mr. Hun Sen and told Chheang Vun that he will talk to Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who was foreign minister at the time, to find a diplomatic posting for him in a foreign country just for him to get away from Hun Sen and out of Cambodia.
True to his words, Chea Sim talked to Prince Sirivudh and Chheang Vun was posted as an ambassador to Australia and was saved from Hun Sen’s rages.
Chheang Vun was as cunning as an old fox. The diplomatic post for Australia was a quota for the Funcinpec Party under the agreement to form a coalition government after the 1993 election. But Chheang Vun, who came from France like Prince Sirivudh, promised to Funcinpec that he will serve Funcinpec Party, not the CPP and this was the reason why Prince Sirivudh and Funcinpec Party agreed to offer him a diplomatic posting to Australia.
Chheang Vun, a trouble-maker with the Cambodian Diaspora
After the 1997 coup, Chheang Vun, as an ambassador to Australia, had tried hard to justify the 5-6 July coup against Funcinpec Party. He had tried to justify the reasons for the coup wherever he went and as a result he had made many enemies and many troubles with the Khmer community in Australia.
During the Pchum Ben in 1997, he went to Bonnyrigg Temple in Sydney and nearly got lynched by the mob when he got into heated exchanges with people, who went to pray for those executed by Hun Sen’s forces, by defending the coup. The crowd descended on him and grabbed him, intending to beat him up, but a security guard came to his rescue and called the police. He was only saved when the police arrived to escort him out of the crowd.
In another incident, he made a threatening phone call to Mr. Ung Bunheang or Sacravacartoons, who was the editor of the Khmer Republica newspaper and Cambodia’s foremost famous cartoonist.
At that time, Mr. Chheang Vun was so enraged with an article in the Khmer Republica criticizing him that he made a threatening phone call to Mr. Ung Bunheang threatening, to the effect that, if he ever returned to Cambodia that he will face the consequences. This incident has been published in the Khmer Republica and Mr. Ung Bunheang can testify to that incident.
Another incident happened during the people’s protest in front of the Cambodian embassy in Canberra against the 1998 Cambodian election result. After the protest, when protesters were returning to their vehicles, Mr. Chheang Vun appeared from within the embassy compound and got into heated exchanges with the protesters. He told the protesters not to be duped by Mr. Sam Rainsy who tried to tarnish Cambodia’s reputation. A protester shouted “we have never been duped by anybody, it is you who are duped by the Vietnamese”. The scream was so loud that all the police protecting the embassy at the time rushed to separate him from the protesters, if not he could get hurt by the protesters.
During the protest, we were told by an embassy insider, who had acted as an embassy interpreter and whom I cannot name here, that right after the 1997 coup, Mr. Chheang Vun was summoned by the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest against the coup. The senior Australian official scorned and nailed him with diplomatic language and diplomatic euphemism but Chheang Vun, being a novice diplomat, did not understand the diplomatic language and thought that Australia was so nice that it did not condemn the coup. The interpreter said she was so embarrassed because Chheang Vun was smiling and almost laughing because he did not understand the severity of Australia’s protest.
Chheang Vun, an opportunist
Chheang Vun had changed sides, or pretended to change sides, many times before as I have mentioned earlier. After the 1993 election, he leaned toward Funcinpec Party when it won the election. He confided with Prince Sirivudh and Prince Ranariddh that he will serve Funcinpec and not his own party of the CPP and that was the reason he was appointed ambassador to Australia which was a quota for the Funcinec Party under the coalition agreement after the 1993 election. During his ambassadorship in Australia, he served Funcinpec well until the coup d’etat in 1997 when Funcinpec was ousted from the government. After the 1997 coup, Chheang Vun took a 180 degree turn and vehemently defended the coup, which nearly got himself lynched by the mob at the Bonnyrigg temple.
However, after the 1998 election and after knowing that Prince Sirivudh had been pardoned by King Sihanouk and was allowed to return to Cambodia after he was exiled by Hun Sen in 1995, Chheang Vun changed, or appeared to have changed, his loyalty again. He had secretly met and dined with Prince Sirivudh during the prince’s visit to Canberra in December 1998 and had confided many things to Prince Sirivuddh, including his verbal clashes with Hun Sen in which he thanked Prince Sirivudh for offering him the diplomatic post to Australia so he could escape from Hun Sen’s rages and out of Cambodia and, at the same time, still holding a high position within the government.
Chheang Vun, a thuggish politician
Chheang Vun’s thuggish behavior inside the Cambodian parliament, when he called opposition leader Kem Sokha “a Phnong” is not only unacceptable, but must be condemned. The tribal Phnong people were considered primitive and the name “Phnong” equates to savagery, uneducated and ignorance, but it must not, under any circumstances, used by any politicians, let alone used it in the parliamentary speech like what Chheang Vun had done.
This was what Mr. Chheang Vun has actually said: “You the opposition party, you contemptible had committed barbaric acts and you contemptible are the Phnongs”. Mr. Chheang Vun’s racist outburst is not only an insult to Mr. Kem Sokha but most importantly it was an unacceptable racist epithet which was directed at one of Cambodia’s law-abiding and respectable tribal people.
Mr. Kem Sokha and the Phnong people deserve an unreserved apology from Mr. Chheang Vun. But when called for an apology by Mr. Son Chhay, one of the senior opposition MPs, Mr. Chheang Vun, instead of offering an apology, added more insults to injuries by calling the Phnong people illegal/illegitimate migrants. This was what he said after a call for an apology: “The Phnongs were not legitimate Cambodian citizens but migrants who had no respect for the law”.
I love the way Khmerization responded to Mr. Chheang Vun’s latest antics.
This was what Khmerization’s response: “Chheang Vun, whose parents were illegal Chinese immigrants to Cambodia, has labelled the tribal Phnong people as illegal immigrants who had no respect for the law. The latest racist remarks by Chheang Vun came after MP Son Chhay called for him to apologise to the Phnong people after he labelled opposition leader Kem Sokha as the Phnong, a racist epithet equating to savagery and ignorance. The Phnong people are indigenous people of northern Cambodia whose ancestors had settled in the region for centuries. On the contrary, Chheang Vun's ancestors only migrated illegally from China less than 100 years ago. So, who is the illegal migrant, Chheang Vun or the Phnong people?”
Believe it or not, even though they live in primitive life style, the Phnong people were ones of the most law-abiding people who had never caused any troubles or committed any crimes against the Cambodian law as has been insinuated and suggested by Mr. Chheang Vun. They were the original indigenous people whose ancestors have settled in the region of northeastern Cambodia for many, many centuries. It is shameful for Mr. Chheang Vun to call them illegal migrants for his ancestors only had settled in Cambodia, most likely illegally, much, much later than the Phnong people.
Who is Chheang Vun?
Chheang Vun was and still is a cunning and untrustworthy politician who had changed sides many times in order to survive and thrive politically. He went to study in France in the 1970s. According to some sources, he had never earned any formal qualifications from any French universities and had worked as a car salesman before his return to Cambodia in around 1989. Some even suggested that he was a car thief during the UNTAC period from 1991-1993 at a time when many of UNTAC’s fleet of vehicles had been robbed, stolen or illegally sold to who knows. There were reports that many persons behind the thefts of UNTAC’s vehicles were powerful people from within the Hun Sen government. So, Chheang Vun could be one of them. In this case, I agree with Khmerization when he said: "Chheang Vun went to study in France for nearly 20 years, but he came back to Cambodia a jungle person".