Cambodian-American Sok Sakoun often shares his thoughts on Facebook about social and political issues. The outspoken analyst was hailed for his accurate analysis by Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 11.
Could you introduce yourself?
I was born in Kandal province and I grew up and attended school in Battambang province. I studied mathematcs, programming and computing.
I have 25 years’ experience in data processing, programming, networking and administration. After that, I studied retail sales and petroleum product management. I have a lot of experience in human resource management and business management. I enjoy reading about history and have conducted a lot of research outside school.
You share your thoughts everyday on Facebook, whether they relate to social or political issues. What is your goal in doing this?
I was the first Cambodian in the world to use the Khmer language in discussion groups on the web, using chat clients like yahoo.com, paltalk.com, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram etc. I have been addressing social issues since the mid 1990s. My goal is to understand social issues and share new ideas, even when those are not mine.
How do you see yourself compared to other well-known analysts?
I am not a professional analyst. I can say I am just a popular speaker. Analysis demands that I work thoroughly, and I am lazy. Therefore, I cannot be compared with other analysts. What I share is experiences and knowledge in oral form.
You seem to have been attacking Sam Rainsy more often than you have Hun Sen. Could you explain this?
Criticising Sam Rainsy . . . I don’t want to see him trying to tell a lie and [I] don’t want to see him so arrogant. A [person with] political tendencies should not lie to people. Cambodia needs honest, respectful politicians, having clear intentions. Cambodian people do not need people who cheat them. I don’t attack him, but I constantly criticise – and with some level of success.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 11 praised you for your analysis. How do you feel about this? Do you think his approval came because you are on his side?
Hun Sen’s appreciation of me is like a double-edged sword. I don’t seek flattery. I try to offer him ideas for the public’s good.
I want to express honest criticism of the government, especially him. It does not mean I am on his side. Therefore, I have set conditions on myself – one, I don’t get involved in politics; two, I don’t return to Cambodia; three, I do not need to be rewarded; and four, I don’t [blindly] accept the government’s position. I think that is enough for me.
If you were not on his side, do you think his praise for your analysis would stop?
Hun Sen’s praise simultaneously helps and destroys me. But it is a risk people should take.
He makes people consider my words, whether they are right and reasonable or not, and it shows Hun Sen is a sensible person. But it also destroys me. I have been attacked, insulted, labelled, blamed and smeared. But I do not need to respond to those things because I have talked a lot already.
What I need to be careful about is the “dog’s bite” from outside civilised society, particularly those who do not accept my ideas.
At one point, you said Hok Lundy offered you a coat which cost $100, but you rejected it. Could you elaborate on your relationship with the former high-ranking [Cambodian People’s Party] official?
Hok Lundy attended a meeting in New York City in the US, and I was asked to help book a hotel for his delegation. Lundy met me back then and I took him to visit the World Trade Center and had noodles with him. He liked my neutral attitude and my perceptiveness. Before leaving, he phoned me to say goodbye and told me that he had bought a shirt for me as a gift.
I thanked him but I did not take the shirt because I could not afford it and I don’t like receiving gifts. Also, in the US there is an “ethical standard” that people do not accept gifts from foreign officials or in the course of their work because it suggests corruption.
Do you plan to come back to Cambodia?
I have no intention or expectation of returning to live in Cambodia. But if I come and work just for a short period of time, it may be possible.
Do you have any other comments that you want to add?
No, frankly speaking, and I do not really care about the public’s reaction, because the truth inside me is so clear.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.