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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comment:More important issues than dual citizenship

Comment:More important issues than dual citizenship

Although the provision barring senior government officials from enjoying dual citizenship

has been struck from the Nationality Law, the controversy is unlikely to go away.
Chea Vannath argues that there are issues more worthy of resolution.

THE dual citizenship issue which has been the subject of much discussion recently

is directed at Cambodians who fled Cambodia, stayed abroad, got another citizenship

from their adopted country, and have come back home to contribute their skills and

knowledge to rebuild their motherland. Dual citizenship is one of the features which

distinguishes the Funcinpec party from the Cambodian People's Party, and is only

the tip of the power sharing iceberg.

There are arguments and counter arguments, half-full and half-empty views on the

dual citizenship issue which appear in speeches, news, media and social gatherings.

Currently, this issue seems to have settled down, at least at the surface, as part

of the efforts by the two Prime Ministers to peacefully solve their differences in

a democratic manner.

Some believe that dual citizenship is not a dead issue yet. It may arise whenever

someone may deem it necessary to use it as a bargaining tool at the negotiating table.

Even if it is said that the Dual Citizenship law, if it passed, would affect only

the very high ranking government officials, it still causes a lot of anxiety among

concerned Cambodians from all walks of life, whether they hold dual citizenships

or not, because whatever we decide to do today will affect Cambodian generations

to come, and the future of Cambodia.

The people who have a half-empty view on the issue argue that the leaders who hold

dual citizenship have the choice and opportunity to leave the country whenever they

want. Therefore, under this view, they do not have commitment, nor the determination

to go through hardship with the people. They have a tendency to abandon them, and

jump ship at first alarm. They do not really love, nor have loyalty toward Cambodia.

They are opportunistic. Therefore, they do not dare to share the misery and suffering

of their fellow countrymen, nor to sacrifice their life for their motherland. So,

under this view, the leaders who hold only one (Cambodian) citizenship have to stick

and stay together with the people for better or for worse, because they do not have

the choice to flee the country.

The pro-dual citizenship view holds that people do not need dual citizenship to be

able to flee the country. There are endless examples of Cambodians who fled to Thailand,

Laos and Vietnam during the 1970s with no passport, nor dual citizenship. Therefore,

fleeing the country is not necessarily relevant to the dual citizenship issue. It

is more a human instinct to preserve life, a survival instinct of all beings. In

"The Killing Fields" film, Dith Pran escaped to the Thai border with empty

hands to save his life. Also one of our famous almost extinguished species, the wild

oxen called "Koprey", fled Cambodia to seek refuge in Lao forests with

no dual citizenship.

On the contrary, it is the ones who may have never left the country but have bank

accounts abroad who have the ability to easily flee the country because of their

wealth. Furthermore, we should not measure people's qualifications based on their

citizenship status, but rather on their knowledge, wisdom, and moral and ethic values,

as well as their patriotism and nationalism.

People with the half-empty view say that Cambodians who have dual citizenship do

not best represent Cambodian interests in negotiations, meetings, or conferences

involving their country of adopted citizenship because they may be under the pressures

of their adopted country's rules of law. Also, conflicts of interest may arise whenever

there are differences of state affairs between Cambodia and the country of adopted

citizenship. For example, if Cambodia was at war with such an adopted country, people

with DC might be unable to fight against that country, or vice versa. It seems that

is why some countries may allow people with dual citizenship to hold positions in

the Government up to certain levels only.

People with half-full views counter that those with dual citizenship are best able

to represent the Cambodian nation's interests with regards to the country of their

adopted citizenship, because they are able to use their voting power to express themselves,

and put pressure on their adopted government to get support for Cambodian interests.

They have the ability to lobby and network to get worldwide attention for Cambodian

issues, for the benefit of Cambodia. For example Cambodian-Americans in Cambodia

(and in the USA) recently sent petitions to their respective US Representatives and

Senators requesting that they pass the Cambodia Most Favored Nation Status (MFN)

bill.

Furthermore, the pro-dual citizenship people claim that they do not have problems

with their identity, nor with their choice about what is best for Cambodia. Also,

as Cambodians, we should be proud of some members of the elite of Cambodia who hold

dual citizenship and are currently in the Ministries or in the Parliament, and who

are doing an excellent job of helping to rebuild their motherland with all their

heart, competence and skills.

But for the sake of argument, if the Government deems it necessary to protect certain

sensitive positions and open them only to people with one (Cambodian) citizenship

only for security reasons, or do the same with the highest position(s) in the Government,

that issue should be brought up for discussion as a State issue and not a Party issue.

There should clearly be rules and regulations, such as Clearance Policy Requirements,

in which dual citizenship people have to relinquish their dual citizenship if they

want to be in that position. The discussed solution(s) should be based on the long

term national interests and not short term, individual or party interests. Could

it cause more harm than benefits to prohibit dual citizenship for all Members of

the Parliament and high ranking positions in the Ministry with no distinction?

People with half-empty views say that dual citizenship Cambodians who are high ranking

Government officials do not represent Cambodia with dignity when they travel abroad,

because, for convenience, they may use their ordinary adopted country passport and

not the Cambodian Diplomatic passport, and therefore they are not properly treated

as the Representatives of Cambodia. Furthermore when traveling abroad along with

their peers, they have the tendency to leave them behind, because they carry different

passports, which means getting different treatment at airports.

People with half-full views say that these arguments are politically motivated, trival

or insignificant compared to the real losses that the country may face because of

this Dual Citizenship bill. Cambodia will lose its human resources, they say, because

of this prejudice. A lot of qualified dual citizenship Cambodians who are an asset

to the country won't have the opportunity to contribute their knowledge to serve

their motherland. We will create our own Brain Drain, to the benefit of other countries.

They continue that a new law should be based on objective and positive thinking,

and be for the purposes of long term peace and stability of the country. The law

should not be developed for political reasons, or for short term political gain for

a group of people or individuals.

These half-full and half-empty views on the issue divert our attention from the myriad

more important national issues that our country is facing now. The Royal Coalition

Government is the result of the choice of the Cambodian people, who expressed their

political will through the 1993 General Election. What Cambodian people want is peace,

stability and prosperity. How should the two Prime Ministers reconcile their differences?

Do they need to compete with each other to get things done as much as possible before

the next election, and may the best Prime Minister win? Or do they want to be: The

Enlightened Leaders?

In the Venerable Heng Monychenda's book called "Preah Bat Dhammik", second

edition, the author describes the Buddhist values on how to be a good military leader.

Preah Bat Dhammik is a great person in the Buddhist story. The story predicts that

people will fight with each other to the death, until there will be only a handful

of Khmers who take refuge under the shade of a "Bo" tree who will survive.

("Bo" is the tree under which Buddha received his Enlightenment). Preah

Bat Dhammik will then come and save all the people taking refuge under the shade

of the "Bo" tree, and who devote themselves to the Five Buddhist Precepts,

which are: "thou shall not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or drink alcohol".

People are awaiting for Preah Bat Dhammik to come and deliver them from all the misery

and suffering caused by the on-going human-made or natural disasters. Everybody is

waiting for his/her coming, and is the on-going, human-made or natural disasters.

Everybody is waiting for his/her coming, and is curious to know what that person

looks like; why is s/he so wise and so enlightened?

The book continues that Preah Bat Dhammik is no one other than a person who has two

"Dharmas" (The ultimate law of all things): (1) Dharmatihppateya which

is to respect, consider, honor, and abide by the law; (2) Dhammikara-khavarannakubati

which is to organize, preserve, protect, and manage with good Dharma all civil servants,

soldiers, business people, citizens, monks, and wild animals, and to eradicate all

unlawful and unjust acts.

Preah Bat Dhammik is a person who delivers one self from greed, anger, delusion,

and illusion, and finds peace and serenity for him/herself, and helps others to do

the same for the sake of themselves, the family, society, the country and the world.

Currently, the Cambodian people are worn-out from all the human-made instability

and natural disasters. They are looking for "Preah Bat Dhammik(s)", or

Enlightened Leader(s), to free them from all the misery and suffering.

The book continues that "a good leader of a country will lead to a good government,

good civil servants, good citizens, a nice environment, good agriculture, prosperity

and peace. Cambodians will have Preah Bat Dhammik. Cambodians will become Preah Bat

Dhammik. Cambodia will have peace and Cambodian people will sleep well if all they

respect the law or respect the people, respect their duties and respect the Dharma

now!".

In all respects, the two Prime Ministers can be Preah Bat Dhammiks on their own merits.

They already have the privilege to be in the current highest positions in the Government

in which the people may look to them as Enlightened Leaders who bring peace and prosperity

to the country - if they choose to be.

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