Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Official’s parallels ignorant: analysts

Official’s parallels ignorant: analysts

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CMAC director-general Heng Ratana, seen speaking at an event, recently likened Cambodia’s ruling party to those of Malaysia, Japan and Singapore. FACEBOOK

Official’s parallels ignorant: analysts

The head of the government-run Cambodian Mine Action Centre this week attempted to draw parallels between the historic rule of the Cambodian People’s Party in Cambodia and single-party dominance in prosperous regional countries Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, a comparison that one analyst called “ignorant” and “superficial”.

A Tuesday Facebook post by CMAC director-general Heng Ratana notes that the three countries mentioned “have a single party leader to ensure the sustainability, security and orderly development of their societies”, and have “developed their democratic system based on their own values, cultures and social principles”.

“Why can’t Cambodia walk the path of these three countries?” he added. “The people pay attention to the government and see growing hope and prosperity.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, who also shared the post, supported the statement yesterday, saying in an interview that the Cambodian people have “enjoyed” the relative stability provided by the CPP, which has been in power since a Vietnamese invasion overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. When asked why Cambodia ranked significantly worse than the other three countries in international democracy indices, Siphan dismissed outside observers entirely.

“As Cambodians we know our country better than you, better than Western nations. We see people appreciate peace and the ability to improve their quality of life,” he said.

Southeast Asia historian David Chandler, however, said that the ruling party hasn’t shown signs of becoming more democratic, as the parties in the other three countries have.

“The CPP is the only ex-communist party in power in Asia. Its behaviour since 1997 at least has not become more democratic,” he said.

Regional political analyst Carl Thayer, meanwhile, called the comparison superficial and pointed to Hun Sen’s personal grip on the country as a primary distinction.

“Hun Sen made himself the centre of CPP. The CPP has dominated the military and civil society since 1993. All UNTAC did was add opposition to an apparatus that was already controlled by the CPP,” Thayer said, referring to the 1990s United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Kingdom.

Thayer also added that the other countries in question have more independent courts and police forces than in Cambodia and haven’t raised international concerns over election meddling.

“The three other countries – despite imperfections – have made progress. And I think Cambodia has not gone forward,” Thayer added.

Professor Paul Chambers echoed Thayer’s comments on Hun Sen’s personal influence over the Cambodian political system and the comparative lack of strong institutions outside of his control.

“The undeniable difference is that Cambodian politics is lorded over by a single person – Hun Sen,” he wrote via email. “The three other countries possess a more institutionalized system through which individuals rotate. Cambodia is today the classic example of party politics converted into a personalized fief.”

Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said that the Cambodian people have sacrificed freedom, but have not gotten the promised development or stability in return.

“In Singapore they have jobs, security, dignity for their people, education, growth and sustainability,” she said, adding that Cambodian citizens want their fundamental rights.

Reached yesterday, Ratana clarified that Cambodia is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge but needs the firm stability of a single party to continue to develop.

“It’s more practical to compare post-war to post-war,” Ratana said, referring to the recovery time following World War II in comparison to Cambodia’s recent conflict. “There has been less than 20 years of peace.”

Chambers, however, disputed that Cambodia is heading in the right direction.“The implication seems to be that Cambodia could become a modern-day Singapore. I do not think that Hun Sen is a Lee Kuan Yew,” Chambers said in reference to Singapore’s former long-term ruler.

“So far the [Zimbabwe President Robert] Mugabe future seems to be the path down which Hun Sen is leading Cambodia.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all