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The times sure are changing

Dear Editor,

Nothing is a better indication of changed circumstances in Cambodia than the recent resolution by the European parliament about Cambodia.

There are three main reasons why it has come to this.

The most important one is that Cambodia now has a strong and credible opposition. The countries that have been financing Cambodia are of course interested in stability. This will protect their investment and make it more likely that future aid will be less and less necessary.

I always had the impression that they were reluctant to rock the boat as long as there was a strong government and a weak opposition. This has now changed.

The second reason is the very public and obvious irregularities in counting the votes at the recent election (boxes that were not properly sealed, etc). The donor countries are mainly democracies and to be seen to be financing a crooked voting system is unacceptable for them.

They feel morally obliged to do something. (Unless their diplomats come up with all kind of excuses, which is, of course, what they are being paid for.)

Last and also least is the incident of the shooting of innocent civilians by government goons. This was a major tactical mistake by the government.

The Thai government was much smarter in letting the protests run their course and trying to let them run out of steam, and I had the impression that the government here initially was thinking along similar lines.

But then the pressure got too much for them and the hardliners got their way. But what worked in the past only resulted in giving the opposition ammunition in their efforts to involve foreign governments.

If I was a cynical person I would say something like “mission accomplished”. But of course that would be entirely unfair. There are of course other reasons for the resolution. Corruption, prohibition of demonstrations, land grabbing, etc, etc, but they existed for a long time without triggering a strong reaction. Now of course they too are in the spotlight.

In all my years in Cambodia I have never seen such a change. One moment there was a docile and cowed population that didn’t dare say anything and the next moment I thought I was in Australia, where criticising the government is a major pastime.

Good on you, Cambodia.

Heinz Wiese
Sihanoukville

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