The government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee was the subject of ridicule yesterday after a propaganda video tried to pass off snapshots of the Singapore skyline as those of pre-civil war Libya.
The video, titled Using Rights in an Anarchic Way, part of a web series, was uploaded on Sunday.
The slick video compiles a series of before-and-after photos of Syria and Libya, backed by dramatic strings, and warns “the excessive use if [sic] rights will bring about destruction”.
The two civil-war stricken states are a favourite metaphor of government officials urging Cambodians not to “misuse” their rights, yet the video uses an image of Singapore in place of Libya, as highlighted by Channel News Asia.
But the gaffes do not stop there. An image of Qatar’s capital of Doha also features in the video, while another video – which compares Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge era to the modern day – uses images of traffic jams in Vietnam to illustrate that there are now “too many people” in Phnom Penh.
The head of the human rights committee, Keo Remy, said the Singapore error was an “unintentional mistake” that his technical team had now fixed.
“It’s not embarrassing . . . the young people on the technical team have never been to visit Singapore or Libya,” Remy said. “They searched Google for ‘Libya at night time’ . . . it’s not a big deal.”
Twitter user Jess Lim, based in Siem Reap, said the mistake was ironic. “Coming from Singapore, I could smell a propaganda video a mile away,” she said yesterday, after tweeting a link to the story with the words: “Zero points for subtlety. Also, funny that Libya looked a whole lot like Singapore once.”
Satirical twitter account Hun Sen’s Eye tweeted: “Watch your rights-exercising! You know what the problem in Syria is? They love human rights TOO MUCH! #Cambodia”.
Independent human rights consultant Billy Tai said it was problematic for the Cambodian government to compare itself to leaders like Gaddafi and Assad – vicious dictators whose people revolted against them.
“They’re trying to say the people are the ones that are abusing the rights we’ve graciously given,” Tai said.
He said such a claim was analogous to “the perverse logic of an abusive relationship”, where the victim is blamed for inciting anger and beatings.
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap said the video’s true mistake was that it advocated restricting freedoms, rather than promoting and protecting human rights.