A new chapter in Cambodia politics
The most popular news during these few days is the resignation of Sam Rainsy from Cambodia National Rescue Party’s presidency and membership. There are many views on pros and cons of his journey. Cambodian people in general are missing him so much for his decision-making but their love and attachment towards his heroic determination has been surprisingly increasing. Hence, some analysts viewed his resignation as a disadvantage for both himself and the CNRP as whole.
Actually, Sam Rainsy’s resignation is to save his party from dissolving, a fate Prime Minister Hun Sen seeks to bring about. Hun Sen has repeatedly made clear his intention to amend the Political Party Law to ban convicted individuals from entering top leadership of the party as well as to dissolve the party if a member is convicted. Strategically, Sam Rainsy sidestepped Hun Sen’s narcissistic intentions ahead of the upcoming commune elections and 2018’s national election. Sam Rainsy has been found guilty in a defamation lawsuit against him and there are many more lawsuits against him. Every Cambodian knows that those charges are politically motivated.
Academics and observers see Hun Sen’s obsession to divide and weaken the CNRP as a pre-emptive tactic to ensure a positive outcome for the CPP in elections. This activity has surpased all efforts of reform. Jailing NGO staff members including secretary of the National Election Committee Ny Charia is seen as an attempt to tame the election body, and this latest effort to outlaw the strongest opposition party is seen as a move to weaken his opponent before allowing them to enter the ring.
Besides personal integrity, honesty, sacrifice and love for his nation, Sam Rainsy has proved vivid and intelligent in handling political truces with Hun Sen. With more than 27 years of experience in political leadership in opposition to Hun Sen, Sam Rainsy was greeted by a sea of people to welcome him back home at the airport a few days before the election campaign kicked off in 2013.
Some people believe his resignation is an example of irresponsible leadership. In fact, it is parallel to that of George Washington, who stepped down after serving two terms, despite the fact that many believed he could have ruled for life. He did this for the love of his country. Likewise, Sam Rainsy has shown to be the first role model to all Cambodian people, willing to cede power for the good of the people.
In the future, Sam Rainsy will be an icon of change and idealistic pragmatism in the Kingdom. His political career is not yet over, and won’t be over so long as Cambodians, especially younger voters, are still supportive of his struggle.
Founder and executive director
Committee for Election Right of Overseas Cambodians
Is trouble looming for the CPP?
Cambodia’s history is punctuated by political drama and miscalculations. The recent headline news of Sam Rainsy’s sudden resignation comes as a complete surprise, if not a shock, to everyone – his supporters and opponents alike – in terms of substance, motives and manner.
Few, if any, would expect Rainsy, who has spent decades at the helm of major opposition parties, to abruptly resign from his post for no compelling reasons except the ambiguous personal reasons, which were vaguely mentioned in his resignation letter released to the public.
Voluntarily giving up high-profile and prominent roles is not a typical trait or behaviour of Cambodian politicians we have grown accustomed to. Sure, one may argue that Rainsy is not a politician like others and that he places the nation’s interests above his own, given his records of life-long and unwavering commitment to the good and well-being of the nation. But still, it does not explain the reasons of his abrupt departure.
There was no apparent sign or indication of major internal fighting in the party or revolt against his leadership prior to the announcement. Everything appeared to be calm and business as usual on the surface. So what were the real motives or factors contributing to his sudden resignation?
While CNRP’s supporters and the public at large are curious to find out the real reasons behind Rainsy’s decision to step down, some sceptics have speculated whether this is a genuine resignation or a concealed strategy shift in response to the recent government threats to introduce legislation to dissolve his party over his court conviction in absentia last December.
Either way, his resignation, genuine or not, is a move that could potentially have a far-reaching repercussion on the political landscape. For the first time since the last election, the CPP may now face a tough dilemma and uncertain prospect, politically and socially - not knowing what to expect.
For years, critics have viewed Rainsy’s leadership style as lacking teeth and being too predictable. Sure enough, no one knows this better than his opponents in the CPP camp as they have conveniently, repeatedly and successfully exploited it. To a large extent, the CPP camp has been able to anticipate Rainsy’s next move or reaction to a specific scenario, thus able to largely keep his political manoeuvring in check or in a defensive position. His resignation could change all that.
There is no doubt that Mr Rainsy’s popularity poses a serious challenge to the incumbent government. That being the case, those government officials who are quick to cheer the news of his resignation may soon enough mourn.
So far, Rainsy’s vision and approach to solving political impasses have been indisputably pacifist. His culture of dialogue policy was a clear demonstration of his faith in and commitment to peaceful solution. Evidently, that noble faith has been a colossal burden on him to uphold.
He had to do his utmost to persuade the discontented grassroot activists and hardliners to accept his pacifist vision at the risk of an open revolt against his leadership and party split.
Arguably, his resignation could be a serious blow to the country’s peace and stability. It is uncertain whether his resignation will translate into more votes for the CPP. What is more certain is that the new leader who will take the helm of the CNRP is unlikely to be as pacifist as Rainsy has been and may not be willing to resist to the grassroots’ call for more assertive posture and response in kind to the government’s actions against their peaceful protests.
Rainsy has been known to make U-turns on key decisions and important public declarations in the past. The coming weeks or months will tell whether or not he has a change of heart on his precipitated resignation.
Meanwhile, for those CPP officials and supporters who wish and are eager to celebrate his departure, remember an old saying: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”
Davan Long Montreal
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