|A district security guard shoves a woman in the back [on Monday 16th May 2016] in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district during a demonstration against the detention of Adhoc staffers.Hong Menea|
by School of Vice
Most observers and Cambodians [in and outside of the country] are not amused by all kinds of administrative harassment against groups and people thought to be engaging in 'sedition' against the ruling regime, regardless of their feelings and sentiments towards the main opposition party. The "law" and its applications, and or its inference and invocations apply selectively, and only administered arbitrarily on this partisan and partial distinction as to those powerful elements sitting and acting above the law, and the rest held below it.
The current obstacle being faced by the CNRP over permission sought for the suitable site for its planned TV station is just one in a long catalogue of this administrative hindrance witnessed over the years. From the name of a political party and the erection of party signs at public venues, to official harassment against Khmer Krom Buddhist community, the pattern has been all too familiarly depressing, in most people's fair opinion; out of touch with what any law requires to promote law and order, or enforce good governance, and is therefore, unacceptable. Some hard-line supporters and apologists of the ruling party may feel that such bias and deliberate, systematic discrimination is nothing out of the ordinary in a 'nascent' democracy and in context of the country's authoritarian political culture that stretches back in time well beyond the emergence of the present CPP administration.
Yet, what is noticeable and different or alarming today is the degree and extent to which the ruling system seeks to exert and consolidate this administrative control over every aspect of social and political life of this nation. Indeed, the relative ease with which the old successive Cambodian regimes had been toppled to eventually be replaced by the current regime is evident of this contrast in temperament in political culture of the old ‘Khmer’ regimes of the post-colonial era that had lasted [in variations] up to April 1975, and the radical, alien "Communist" movement of the KR that ultimately yielded to the emergence of its rival faction and offshoot in the CPP movement that has ruled this nation to this day.
Castigating or describing the KR movement [as a political and ideological group] as "alien" may seem to some like a well-worn theme of Cambodians laying the responsibility and blame for the group's murderous deeds onto someone else. After all, the leadership of this radical faction was composed of ‘Cambodians’, and not non-Cambodians, surely? Unfortunately, things are a lot less straightforward than that in the country’s politics where national institutions are ill-defined and political culture poorly developed, and where personalities, intrigue and persistent interference vis a vis neighbouring states, also play their parts. It is not this writer, but a certain US Ambassador to Cambodia in the sixties/early seventies who once warned about the KR movement, pointedly stating: "These people are not Cambodians."
What does any 'political culture' reflect - among other things? It reflects the temperament and habits of a people; of a nation's civic culture and character. The rigidity and regimentation with which the CPP administration applies and structures its influence and power over the Cambodian society [think of the way it deals with 'The Black Monday' protesters, the land dispute victims throughout the country, the persecutions of civil society activists etc.], the systematic exploitation and decimation of natural assets, the swiftness with which it deals with border critics [especially, border issues with Vietnam as well as the non-transparency surrounding them] and so forth, are all – it can be said - instances of an 'alien', imposed political culture and administrative discipline, even if the human characters and individuals fronting this might seem, to all appearances, to be ostensibly 'Khmers' or Cambodians.
The Khmer people have long dreaded and feared that what remains of their country would gradually be absorbed into the fold of Vietnam's empire and control. Today, the bleak reality and nightmare, if anything, are far worse than anything they [at least, the majority of them] would have anticipated or realised. The only reason why the main Cambodian opposition party and other civil groups are being hampered incessantly in every direction they take is because they instinctively repudiate and oppose that reality and scenario, or at any rate, the price this reality exacts upon civil, human society such as the restrictions and impediments on the otherwise normal or reasonable exercise of everyday freedom and expression.
These people are already finding themselves in the shoes of their Khmer Krom compatriots who have succumbed to Vietnamese rule and suzerainty - de facto or otherwise - for, perhaps, a century or more. It is only the delusion of sensory perceptions, cultural insulation, limited access to information, among other factors, that still restrict and limit a wider awareness, and ultimately delay their reckoning of that nightmare reality.