Since the Paris Peace Accords of 1991 Cambodia has not moved forward an inch in reality on the political and democratic front. It could be argued that civil society has on the whole made some gains - refugees along the border returned home, international assistance of various kinds poured in, people are allowed to eke out a living in relative freedom, a minority even thriving through large and small businesses, and of course, large-scale violence caused by armed conflict brought to an end.
Yet, for too long such gains have been made possible at a price; benefits that maybe considered disproportionately overshadowed or outweighed by the costs and sacrifices to a nation's long term sovereignty and freedom. In the early 1990s and before, and despite his misgivings over his main protagonist in Mr Hun Sen, Sihanouk would have envisaged that the ending of the armed conflict between the various factions could have at least created a climate of "dialogue" and reconciliation among Cambodians; that perhaps, even these human instruments and puppets of Hanoi would gradually see sense and return to the national fold for the sake of the nation. After all, as he always maintained in private and public, they are 'Khmers' too. He also saw in Sen [who was promoted to the post of Premier at a young age] something of his own self; a young "statesman" isolated on the international stage and alone in leading a war-torn nation. Thus, from having previously referred to Hun Sen as "One-Eyed traitor" Sihanouk would later embraced the man as his adopted son [at the latter's request] and asked him to accept and abide by the terms of the PPA, and more importantly, to give him the assurance that the monarchy and the throne would be reinstated and preserved.
It's conceivable too to envisage during this early stages how the likes of Sihanouk would have been deceived and swayed by Sen's pledges and empty reassurances; many among his former enemies have fallen prey to his charm and tactics; a trend that has persisted to this day with regards to the manner in which he manipulates and deceives the CNRP leadership - at times. Since the violent coup to eliminate the electoral threat of the opposition in Funcinpec in 1998, Sen has tolerated the appearance or facade of political pluralism, along with his solemn pledge to "protect" the King and monarchy as the foremost symbol of national unity and entity, but he has done so mostly on his own terms. The political opposition parties and their lively presence [as long as they pose no serious threat to the CPP's political survival] would lend his rule legitimacy of sorts and the pretense that the PPA has not been violated whilst the sterilised, subservient Monarch conveys similair impressions of unity and consensus between the ruling elite and the country's still revered royal institution.
It is thus no surprise to hear Rainsy refers to Sihanouk as "Our King" in his latest spat with the present regime over the Heng Samrin defamation case against him. Sihanouk may well be "Our King" and a national Hero to Sihanoukists and to some others who have either through misled views or blind following refused to come to terms with the reality and enormity of his crimes and blunders. Yet the realities confronting the nation today are in part direct consequences of his fatal political decisions and legacies, and thus to continue to revere him or his memory would be to perpetuate and validate all of his flaws and errors that would surely and speedily lead to a national suicide.
Remember too the injury and insult Sihanouk's veneration will have caused to those innocent millions who endured 'unparalleled sufferings' and to the memory of their relatives and loved ones who lost their lives in the seventies owing to his "royal legacies" or misjudgments.
Pin your visions and leadership on Truth and the Khmer people's Will and desires instead. That should be more than enough in the long run in the national struggle for independence and freedom.
Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy Found Guilty of Defamation
Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy (R) offers food to a Buddhist monk at Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh, April 17, 2015.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy was found guilty Thursday of defaming a leading lawmaker in a trial the opposition leader told RFA was based more on “politics and corruption” than an impartial judicial review.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sam Rainsy of defaming National Assembly President Heng Samrin in a closed-door session that lasted less than an hour. Heng Samrin is also a senior leader in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
While Sam Rainsy did not attend the trial, Heng Samrin and his attorney Ky Tech did. Sam Rainsy was fined 10 million riels (U.S. $2,439) and ordered to pay Heng Samrin 150 million riels (U.S. $36,586) in compensation.
Speaking live on RFA’s Khmer Service call-in show on Thursday, Sam Rainsy said he is unconcerned by the decision, calling it is unjust “because the court decision in Cambodia is based on politics and corruption rather than based on law, judicial conduct and regulations.”
CNRP senior official Eng Chhay Eang also dismissed the verdict.
“Sam Rainsy did not hire any defense lawyers because he knew it is politics,” he said.
Heng Samrin sued Sam Rainsy for defamation over a video the CNRP president posted on Facebook in 2015 that shows former King Norodom Sihanouk giving a speech with the words: “We remember that the regime born on 7 January 1979 used their court [system] to sentence [late] King Norodom Sihanouk to death on the accusation of being a traitor.”
Heng Samrin was president of Cambodia from 1979 to 1992, leading a government installed following an invasion by Vietnam that ended the four-year rule of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime. Heng Samrin contended the Facebook statement negatively affected his reputation.
Norodom Sihanouk was King of Cambodia between 1941 and 1955 and from 1993 to 2004. He died in 2012 of a heart attack and was succeeded by his son, Norodom Sihamoni.
Sam Rainsy has been living abroad since he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in 2015 because of a warrant issued for his arrest in another defamation case in which he accused Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong of running a prison for the Khmer Rouge.
After Sam Rainsy left the country, the CNRP named Kem Sokha its acting president.
The verdict comes as political tensions between the CPP and the CNRP have grown worse in recent months as the government has sought to arrest Kem Sokha in an attempt to force him to appear in court in connection with an affair he is alleged to have had with a young hairdresser.
A National Election Committee member and four staffers with the rights group ADHOC, along with a U.N. worker, are facing bribery or accessory charges after being accused of attempting to keep the woman quiet about her alleged affair with Kem Sokha.
CNRP supporters and many civil society organizations contend the cases are politically motivated as the ruling CPP attempts to tighten its grip on power before the 2017 and 2018 elections. Although Hun Sen’s CPP has retained its three-decades-long hold on the government, the ruling party suffered a dramatic drop in support during the country’s last election in 2013.
The verdict also comes less than a month after popular government critic Kem Ley was murdered in an execution-style killing.
A Cambodian court charged a former soldier named Oeuth Ang with premeditated murder in the killing. While authorities have said that Kem Ley was killed over an outstanding $3,000 debt, few in Cambodia believe the story.
Reported by Sonorng Khe for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.