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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An open letter to Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses a crowd of garment workers on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard last week, at which he vowed to hold office for another 10 years.
Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses a crowd of garment workers on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard last week, making a speech in which he vowed to hold office for another 10 years. Facebook

An open letter to Hun Sen

Dear Prime Minister,

You say your recent actions are to avoid the repeat of Cambodia’s tragic history. However, your actions may ultimately lead to the repeat of that tragic history. You see the dangers posed by others, but yet you disregard the dangers you are creating for your own nation and people. You have condemned your predecessor’s dependency on a foreign power, which led to Cambodia’s genocide. Yet, you chose to follow the footsteps of your predecessors by creating a dependency on another foreign power. With your recent actions, you have disregarded the friendly hands of Western nations that would have mitigated Cambodia’s dependency and have instead allowed Cambodia to fall into the open arms of China.

You are about to place Cambodia into such a tight corner that when China sneezes, all of Cambodia will feel it. And if war breaks out between China and our neighbours over the Spratly Islands, you can be sure China will be knocking on Cambodia’s door asking Cambodia to return the favour (ie, perhaps to become its military base).

For centuries, Cambodia has been dependent on one foreign power in one form or another (Thailand, Vietnam, France and the United States), and you have continued this terrible legacy by adding China to this list. The disastrous consequences of your decisions today probably won’t be felt by you, but it will be paid for by future generations to come.

To maintain your definition of peace and stability, you have chosen to divide Khmers and create an environment for them to fight one another. You have chosen to silence a large portion of your people by imprisoning their elected representative. Let it be known, prime minister, there is no stability when you choose to silence and divide your people.

You once again walk in the wrongful path of your predecessors by choosing oppression over engagement and the spirit of compromise. And, like your predecessors, you will leave the next generation with a broken and divided nation. Your failure to unite and heal the hearts and minds of your people will forever haunt your legacy.

Prime minister, it is not too late for you to become a leader that represents all Khmers (present and future), your love for Cambodia must be more open, your vision for Cambodia must include the generations to come and Cambodia must be a friend to all nations. Most important of all, Khmers do not need to step on one another to succeed as a nation.

On behalf of the future generation,
Ms Ratha Panh,
A staffer at an international development organisation.



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John Lowrie's picture

This is a heartfelt letter that no doubt represents the views of the signatory and many other Cambodians, but it does concern me that it has almost certainly been edited by an English-speaking person, probably an expatriate. While that produces a polished product, it means it loses vital authenticity. It also means that it is easy for the recipient to dismiss at as more foreign-inspired interference. This is why I always try when I help Cambodians to ensure that we retain just enough of the original of what they said and felt. Recently I made the same comment to the daughters of Kem Sokha because their recent article in the Washington Post* clearly contained "poetic license" that could only have been added by whoever assisted them. In particular the letter described events 15 years ago when both were children that were not true. Their father was not the original innovative democracy and human rights champion they made him out to be. In fact to make such a claim buys in to the CPP's narrative that he was the first or only one to conspire against Cambodia in league with the United States. The truth is he was doing the same as other brave human rights advocates, perhaps better than some. The late Kem Ley took the same art to an even higher plain in getting messages successfully across to many more ordinary people, incurring the wrath of the ruling party. Hence why both Kem Ley and Kem Sokha have been silenced. It means the task falls to others to speak up in their place. If they are to "continue the journey" as Kem Ley implored, not only must they "wipe away the tears" but they must stay true and authentic, please. *

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