Sunday, August 4, 2013


Dictators must hate Facebook. It was so much easier in the good old days when a dictator controlled TV, newspapers and radio and could spin whatever lie he liked. (Female dictators are thin on the ground – a fact that does not reflect well on the gender of which I am a representative!)
Today it seems that everyone in Cambodia under the age of 30 has a mobile phone with a camera and is using Facebook not only to find out what is actually going on in their country but to share audio-visual information that contradicts what is in the state-controlled media. And of course these young people have mums and dads (also with mobile phones, if not Facebook accounts) and so information spreads like wildfire and the truth becomes harder and harder to suppress.
Dictators do not like the free flow of information. Especially not if it is true.
Now that a sizeable segment of Cambodia’s youth  knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that its government engages in industrial scale lying, Hun Sen and his cronies are rapidly losing the last vestiges of credibility and respect they enjoyed in the lead up to the elections. And they have lost their capacity to instill fear in the populace – perhaps the most significant development of the past few weeks.
Dictators do not like it when the people no longer fear them. Fear is the glue that holds an efficiently functioning dictatorship together.
Fear in Cambodia has been replaced with hope and the one hope that unites most, if not all, Cambodians in August 2013 is that their country can, at last, make a change for the better. And God knows Cambodia deserves a lucky break. After decades in which the country was carpet-bombed by the US during the Vietnam war (an adult and two children were killed yesterday by a US bomb they stumbled upon), endured the genocidal Khmer Rouge and 28 years of Hun Sen dictatorship, hope now has a shape, a from and names attached to it - Sam Rainsy and his Cambodian National Rescue Party.
Today, on the road with Sam Rainsy, his Vice President Kem Sokha, and other party members, I witnessed dozens of interactions between Rainsy and Cambodians of all ages in the provinces. In each he was greeted as a hero and it was clear that the hopes and dreams of so many people for genuine change rest on his and his party’s shoulders. Significantly, everyone he spoke with encouraged Rainsy to keep fighting Hun Sen; to not to allow Hun Sen to get away with stealing yet another election. From my conversations with Rainsy it is clear that he has no intention of giving up without the fight of his life. In this he is supported by Vice President Kem Sokha, the fearless Mu Sochua and other intelligent and seasoned CNRP politicians who have no intention of allowing Hun Sen to defy the will of the people yet again.
Hun Sen is no longer a ‘strongman’. He might have one last tilt at earning the title again but m reading of the situation here now is that intimidation or violence perpetrated by Hun Sen will have the reverse effect to the one intended. It will merely further galvanize the resolve of the Cambodian people to support the one person, the one party, that represents hope; that represents change – Sam Rainy and the Cambodian National Rescue party.

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