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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mouly rebuts Rasy's Cambodia criticisms

Mouly rebuts Rasy's Cambodia criticisms

I nfomation Minister Ieng Mouly was moved to send in this letter after

reading Douc Rasy's outspoken remarks in the Post


Douc Rasy's statements, as reported by the Phnom Penh Post of March 25 -

April 7, 1994 on the Cambodian people and the Royal Government, contained a

number of unfounded allegations and charges. On the Cambodian people he said,

for instance, that "Khmers cannot govern themselves"; and, based on past

situations, "we [Cambodians] do not have the tradition of a responsible

democratic government".

I admire Douc Rasy's knowledge about his own

people but to say that they cannot govern themselves, first, is simply a wild

statement with no factual evidence to support.

Secondly, it is verging

on an insult to his nation and to its iron will and determination to brave all

obstacles to elect their leaders in May 1993. And this will and determination

won them admiration all over the world.

This will and aspirations have now been enshrined in the country's

Constitution. Furthermore, since before those elections, all parties have

committed themselves to multi-party liberal democracy, the respect for human

rights and the guarantee and protection of fundamental freedoms, and all of this

has been enshrined in the same Constitution,

Since those elections the

situation has changed drastically for the better. The police state has fast

disappeared; freedom of expression has flourished with the publication of some

thirty newspapers; no one has been thrown in jail for their thoughts or beliefs,

or for their criticism of the government; everybody can go about their business

free of intimidation; and they can present their grievances to the government or

to the National Assembly, as cases of peaceful demonstrations have


A big step has been achieved in national reconciliation when the

major parties in opposition agreed to form the Royal Government and work

together for the well-being of the Cambodian people.

This government has always responded, and will continue to respond, to the

wishes and aspirations of the Cambodian people. The Government itself as a

group, its individual Ministers and Members of the national Assembly have

listened to the people's grievances and have endeavored to meet their needs. If

Douc Rasy cared to watch TV, listen to radio or read newspapers, he would not

fail to find that what the Royal Government had been doing and its activities,

proving wrong his charges and allegations of absence of responsible democratic


Indeed the Royal Government is facing an enormous task of

rebuilding a country virtually ruined by conflict for more than 23 years.

Nevertheless, it has set out to lay the foundation of the rule of law by

drafting a set of laws befitting a liberal democracy, reorganizing the

judiciary, law courts, government departments and other institutions to enforce

this rule of law and serve the people better. It is also laying the foundation

for economic and social development. Further economic reforms are being

introduced to inspire public confidence and provide assurances and guarantees to

serious investors. There is now monetary stability with the riel around 2,500 to

the dollar, and inflation under control. Economic infrastructure is being

rebuilt as roads and bridges are being repaired and plans for expansion are

being developed. Health services are being improved and education is being

reformed. Plans for the expansion of this sector are also being


However, as Samdech Krom Preah the First Prime Minister has

mentioned in a recent interview, this foundation is still invisible as it is

under the ground. But this foundation is solid to support the structure that

will soon emerge above the ground. These facts run counter to Douc Rasy's

regrettable charges that "little progress has been made since the elections" and

that "nothing is happening."

Douc Rasy charged that "corruption is

everywhere" and advocated tight control by donor countries otherwise foreign aid

"will be frittered away" and "will quickly disappear into pockets of government

officials and conniving businessmen".

To him government officials and

businessmen are simply ruthless sharks and foreign aid their prey. He wanted to

protect this prey so much so that he advocated that "an international governing

force is the country's only hope", and that foreign experts were needed to come

and tell the Cambodian people "this is how you do it."

The Royal

Government does need foreign technical expertise and many foreign experts have

come to help and they have done a good job.

But it is a pity Douc Rasy

has so low an opinion of his fellow countrymen and of their ability. It is a

pity that a scholar of his caliber did not realize that the Cambodian people,

like other peoples in the world, had high expectations, expectations which no

government, however experienced it might be, could meet in so short a time. It

is also a pity Douc Rasy pinned his hopes on a foreign force whose performance

in Cambodia itself in the past and elsewhere has remained a very moot point to

say the least.

There are of course bad apples in the barrel but the Royal

Government has not hesitated to take action against those bad elements.

Corruption, arbitrariness and exactions on the part of government officials have

been declining, and the Royal Government is convinced that once the principal

laws of the land have been adopted, once the organization of government

departments have been completed, once the judiciary and law courts have been

firmly established, and once justice officers have gained enough training and

skills, room for corruption, arbitrariness and exactions will be drastically


Douc Rasy claimed that "human rights are luxury goods - human

rights look like the prize for foreign aid." He forgot that human rights are not

entirely new to the Cambodian people - definitely not a prize for foreign aid.

He should have remembered that the Cambodian people had already won several

human rights back in 1946 when the French rulers of the Kingdom of Cambodia were

forced to give some democratic rights (freedom of expression and of

association). His Majesty the King of Cambodia bestowed human rights to his

subjects in 1947 when he promulgated the 1947 Constitution which transformed the

Kingdom into a Constitutional Monarchy. It should be remembered that the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights came a year after!

Many Cambodians

have since continued to uphold or fight for human rights and democracy, and some

have paid dearly for that. It would be a mockery of the memories of the hundreds

of thousands - if not millions - of fellow Cambodians who fell victims to the

brutal violations of their rights to say that human rights are "luxury goods" or

the "prize for foreign aid". During the peace process all Cambodian warring

parties agreed to the respect for and the motion of human rights in order to

prevent the recurrence of those brutal violations experienced in the past - not

in order to attract foreign aid. In fact, human rights were revitalized in

Cambodian refugee camps in 1988 and three Cambodian warring factions informally

agreed to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in January


It cannot be ascertained, however, whether human rights groups,

including Douc Rasy's own, that have emerged under Untac and after, have been

motivated by the prize of foreign assistance or by the sincere conviction of

their founders.

With regard to expatriate Cambodians and their role Douc

Rasy also raised, the Royal Government always welcome them, and a few of them

have returned and served their country. They have never been "unofficially

discouraged from returning" as his wife, Mrs Setha Douc alleged in the same

report. Obstacles to their return are not that they are a threat to positions of

incumbents as Mrs Douc alleged, but the country cannot afford Western-standard

salaries and high positions they are asking, and their prolonged alienation and

inability to adapt themselves into organizations with so many


Douc Rasy urged the government to raise the pay of its

employees. The Royal Government has been conscious of this problem all along

since its formation. That pay was raised by 20 percent soon after its formation,

and lately it has decided to give school teachers a pedagogy allowance to top up

their salaries. The Royal Government continues to look for ways of improving pay

in the public sector.

What Douc Rasy wanted was a tall order indeed. He

himself used to say that "Cambodia is a land of miracles", but the Royal

Government like governments around the world cannot achieve miracles in so short

a time.

The Japanese and German governments needed many years in order

to achieve miracles for their counties, but then these countries, unlike

Cambodia, emerged from war with still a lot of skilled manpower around and with

their social fabric almost intact.

I would appreciate it very much if you

would publish this reply to your report on Douc Rasy's allegations and


Warm regards,

- Ieng Mouly, Minister of Information



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