Monday, January 20, 2014

Hun Sen's black helmeted Darth Vader Goon Squad strikes again!

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen plays 'chicken' with leader of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, and the rapidly growing number of Cambodians who want his human rights breaching dictatorship replaced by a genuine functioning democracy.

Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy play ‘chicken’

The original game of ‘chicken’ involved two drivers hurtling towards each other on a collision course. One must swerve or both will die in a head on crash. The one who swerves is ‘chicken’; a coward.

Hun Sen’s reputation as a strongman rests on his never swerving from the path he as set himself – the maintenance of absolute power in Cambodia. He has the army, the police, the guns, the tanks, a 10,000 strong personal bodyguard and the courts to guarantee that his opponent must swerve to avoid a fatal collision. Let’s call his battered old vehicle ‘The Dictator’.

Hun Sen’s nemesis, the guy in the car approaching him at high speed, in Sam Rainsy – leader of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party. He is likewise a politician who is not inclined to swerve, though he is one committed to non-violent protest who wants to avoid a fatal collision. Rainsy does not want blood in the streets. He does not want any more Cambodians to die, but perhaps they have to in order for his party to win the day and usher in a genuinely democratic government. The deaths of protestors, innocent bystanders and garment factory workers have not hurt his cause. They have helped it – galvanizing the opposition and a Cambodian population tired of Hun Sen’s close to 30 year old dictatorship. Let’s call Rainsy’s bright shining new, if somewhat flimsy, vehicle ‘The Democrat.’

‘The Dictator’ and ‘The Democrat’ are on a dangerous collision course that has already seen the blood of 10 or so Cambodians in the street.

If peaceful demonstrations will not dislodge Hun Sen, how many deaths can or will Rainsy and his party tolerate before he swerves and lets Hun Sen win the game of ‘chicken’?

Standing on the sidelines is the international donor community – without whose aid dollars the Hun Sen regime would struggle to survive. How many deaths will the international donors tolerate before they say “No more money until independent investigations are conducted into the flawed July 2103 elections and the deaths of five striking garment factory workers?” The international community (not a community at all, actually) is not noted for having the courage of its convictions and have, this past few decades, tolerated all sorts of autocratic and dictatorial behavior from Hun Sen whilst simultaneously shoveling vast amounts of money into the government’s coffers.

And how many deaths can Hun Sen afford to condone (or insist upon) before he risks alienating international community so much that it eventually does develop the cajones necessary to say ‘Enough! We will not deal with you any longer.” There are signs that the international community’s patience is wearing thin – several warning shots having been shot across the bonnet of Hun Sen’s ‘The Dictator’ this past week. President Obama has signed into a law a bill that limits the aid the US will provide to Cambodia this year. Ordinary recipients of humanitarian aid will not be affected. The money being cut is that which was earmarked for the government itself. In reality this reduces the amount of US aid dollars that can be stolen by corrupt government officials.

And the European Union has also thrown some sharp spiked under the wheels of ‘The Dictatorship’ with its insistence on independent investigations into the July 2103 elections and the deaths of Cambodians at the hands of Cambodian police and army personnel. And then there is a whole slew or internationally well known brands such as Addidas, Levi Strauss and the Walt Disney Company telling Hun Sen (I am paraphrasing here) that he must stop killing garment factory workers and allow them their democratic right to go on strike.

A few hours later

My writing interrupted by a telephone call to let me know that another demonstration was taking place outside the US Embassy. Another illegal gathering – given that only 9 people are allowed to met in one place for political purposes now that Hun Sen has suspended the Cambodian constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly. The scenario was much the same as that of last Sunday down by the river  – a couple of dozen black helmeted members of Hun Sen’s Darth Vader Goon Squad, waving their black batons around threateningly. Lots of very brave (and loud) women shouting at them and the security guards outside the US Embassy. Then, the inevitable scuffles as the Darth Vader Goons and Riot Police start arresting demonstrators – oblivious to the many cameras (journalists, filmmakers, NGOs and Cambodian citizens) recording their thuggery.

The very clear message that Hun Sen is sending is that he will enforce his ban on demonstrations. He has no intention of swerving. And the demonstrators have made it clear that they have no intention of ceasing their public protests – regardless of how many arrests are made.

Both Hun Sen’s ‘Dictatorship’ and the Rainsy ‘Democracy’ are hurtling closer and closer  on a collision course that will probably see more blood in the streets in the days and weeks to come.

Perhaps democracy cannot be won in a dictatorship without the loss of blood!

The following You Tube clip will give some idea of how Hun Sen is dealing with even the smallest of protests. 

At one point, last Sunday, it seemed that there were only Goons present to prevent a demonstration and journalist there to record what happened – with no actual demonstrators! There were a few, as it turned out, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Goons and the journalists!


Within an hour of their being arrested this morning's demonstrators were released. The arrests were intended to intimidate but if demonstrators are released almost immediately the deterrent effect of making them in the first place is lost. Hun Sen playing Bad Cop and Good Cop in the  makes him look weak. Mind you, he is a crafty and unpredictable individual and his tactic of arrest and immediate release may be part of some larger plan! We shall see in the next few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment