Your recent news item titled "Good Karma for Sale" triggered my thoughts on the silent behavior of Cambodian people. Though the majority of the Cambodian population is Buddhist, they have only slightly learned Buddhist principles.
Over decades of social upheaval, Cambodian people seem to have fallen into a numb corner. This is a good chance for the Cambodian elite to take advantage of them. In term of economics, the Cambodian people are just enjoying the emergence of new buildings, roads and bridges. In term of politics, Cambodian people are satisfied with peace and social stability. This materialistic hard infrastructure blinds the Cambodian people to the all-important scene behind, the crucial soft infrastructure.
I don't want to define current Cambodian politics as Abraham Kaplan said: "Politics is the redistribution of bandits." But I prefer Gergen's political thought: "A politician is a person who projects, motivates and rationalises the public for personal gain". World academic scholars have observed and concluded that many so-called authoritarian countries have adapted their strategies to receive the ideas of good governance, decentralisation and transparency, as well as to liberalise their national economics, with the intent of extending their power.
It makes sense for post-conflict Cambodian society to appreciate peace, stability, new roads paved, new schools and temples built, and modern cities urbanized. Generally, Cambodian people including Buddhist monks regard political leaders as the well-born persons who can legitimately own the power and wealth they have. Very often, they will not hesitate to beg them for donation. Very intelligent Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has never hesitated to utter his political rhetoric "culture of sharing". Of course, this is the right time for political leaders to pursue this rhetoric.
Buddha addressed the way to go about donations in three thoughtful stages in order to plant wisdom into his audience. Firstly, concentrate on the right giver, secondly concentrate on the right receiver, and thirdly concentrate on the right material given. Significantly, the right material has not been given, in the same way as the crucial soft infrastructure has always been hidden.
For the long-term future and sustainable development, Cambodia should pursue the principle of every Cambodian citizen being offered the chance to get rid of this silent behavior, and political leaders should share the wisdom of reducing personal gain for the sake of collective national interests. Though the boat can move directly to the destination by a boat-hooker (leader), but without the competent boat-paddlers (peoples), the boat will inevitably be sunk.
Ph.D student of political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa