On January 28 the anti-Thai rioters brought great shame to Cambodia. Now, the denials
of responsibly by the very people who instigated and perpetrated the riots heap shame
While making all the right noises to the Thai government since the riots, inside
Cambodia the people have been seized by a fit of denial. The newspapers that printed
the false rumors, Hun Sen's perpetuation of the rumor, the radio station that broadcast
new rumors, and most of all the students that committed the mindless and unwarranted
violence, all share responsibility for the riots. Yet, rather than accepting blame
for their actions, they prefer to point fingers: the newspapers and radio station
blaming their unverified sources, Hun Sen denying the obvious meaning of what he
said, the students and even their teachers shifting fault to the politicians for
what they themselves did with their own hands.
And now, following their leaders, the general public is engaging in the same type
of self-serving excuses. As they reluctantly accept that the original reasons for
the riots were bogus, they are developing new excuses such as 'The Thais take too
much money out of Cambodia', 'The Thais look down on Cambodians', and the most absurd
so far, 'The Thais tell people that Cambodians are always fighting and have violence'.
(Well, I guess the riots showed them, eh?).
Perhaps all of this denial allows some face-saving. Perhaps it serves some short-term
political goals. But it is teaching Cambodian youth that rioting is acceptable behavior,
and showing the world that Cambodia is not mature enough to learn from its mistakes.
Cambodia, it is time to face up to your crimes and miscalculations.
It is time for Hun Sen to say that he made a mistake.
It is time for the teachers to tell their students that what they did was criminal.
It is time for the newspapers to face up to their shoddy tabloid journalism.
It is time for the Cambodian people to admit that their racial hatred and nationalism
has led them to shame and embarrassment.
It is time to say that you screwed up and that you are sorry.
Yes, it will not feel good, but it will force the world to look up to a people big
enough to face their failings and correct them. Only then will the Thais, the tourists,
the diplomats and the international business community feel some assurance that Cambodia
will not repeat its shameful mistakes.
- Signed, An anonymous Cambodia-based businessperson who doesn't want his business