The choice of former Canadian Ambassador Gordon Longmuir to head a Canadian-funded
"legislative support" project has provoked a storm of protest due to Longmuir's
alleged political partiality and disregard for human rights abuses during his diplomatic
tenure in Cambodia.
Longmuir, Canadian Ambassador from 1996-1999, is the in-country field director of
a five-year, $3.25 million dollar Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
project designed to boost the capacity of the National Assembly and Senate. He is
in Phnom Penh liasing with government officials on the project details.
Longmuir was hired by the Parliamentary Center, a Canadian NGO contracted by CIDA
to implement the project with the University of Victoria's Institute for Dispute
resolution and Center for Asia Pacific Initiatives.
Opposition legislators, human rights workers and representatives of civil society
say that Longmuir's consistent support for the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen, his
hostility to Funcinpec's Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy,
and his refusal to address human rights abuses linked to the CPP make him unworthy
of the high profile position.
"My feeling is that [Longmuir] has sold his soul to Hun Sen...like many other
diplomats here he's succumbed to the 'virus of the Strongman', a respect and admiration
for [Hun Sen]," said SRP legislator Tioulong Saumura regarding why Longmuir
was an inappropriate choice for the CIDA project. "He can affect the integrity
of the [legislative support] process...in how the project's money is spent, for example.
If he decides to spend the money proportionally, the CPP [legislators] will get the
Saumura describes Longmuir's pro-CPP stance as a calculated attempt to better his
post-retirement chances for a Cambodian government advisory position
Her suspicions regarding Longmuir's motivations were confirmed, she says, in an encounter
with his wife following a "very aggressive discussion" between herself
and Longmuir regarding his conduct during the 1998 election.
"Longmuir's wife approached me and said 'Don't be mad at my husband, he loves
Cambodia and his only dream is to retire to a villa in Kep'," Saumura recalled.
"I thought 'My God, [Longmuir's] near the end of his career and he's looking
for a new position, a golden position in Cambodia like [former Australian diplomats]
Tony Kevin and John Holloway."
A former western diplomat who worked closely with Longmuir in the aftermath of the
1997 coup expressed dismay at Longmuir's return to Cambodian public life in light
of what he perceived as Longmuir's "blatant partiality" to the ruling CPP.
"...the appointment of Gordon Longmuir is inexplicable as no diplomat did more
to support the 1997 coup, which made a mockery of the publicly elected National Assembly,"
the diplomat told the Post. "Longmuir so despised Prince Ranariddh that he made
it clear he was overjoyed with this outcome and immediately convinced the Canadian
government to fund an election advisor to begin preparations for elections without
the participation of Prince Ranariddh. That he would now want to work with Ranariddh
Peter Schier, Country Representative of the Konrad Adenaur Foundation between 1994-1999,
worked closely with Longmuir on the 1998 elections and confirmed his pro-CPP bias.
"Already in 1996, [Longmuir] told me that it would be idealistic to believe
that the planned elections could be truly free and fair [but] on my insistence he
agreed that we westerners should try our utmost to give the Khmer people the chance
to vote freely for a party or individual candidate of their own choice," Schier
told the Post by email.
"After the 1997 coup, the great majority of Phnom Penh's ambassadors had sided
with the CPP, especially Hun Sen...[Longmuir] clearly belonged to that group. Gordon
Longmuir was what we in Germany call a Realpolitiker, ie you act according to the
situation and your country's interest and not according to political principles [which]
only serve as a legitimizing sugar coating."
A former UN official, however, told the Post that Longmuir's "aggressive"
expressions of political partiality were highly personalized and went far beyond
the demands of realpolitik.
"When he was ambassador Longmuir never showed any interest in developing a functional
democracy. Even before the coup Longmuir missed no opportunity to disparage Prince
Ranariddh as an incompetent who had no right to govern, in spite of the fact that
his party won the 1993 election," the former UN official said.
"He also regularly demonized Sam Rainsy for standing up for the kind of rights
that Canadians consider to be inherent and fundamental. His visceral hatred of Ranariddh
and Rainsy makes it impossible to imagine that he can work with them effectively.
It also raises the question of why Ranariddh would want to work with him."
Those most concerned about Longmuir's appointment, however, are human rights workers
who were scandalized by Longmuir's reported tendency to turn a blind eye to the numerous
instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances following the 1997
"From very early on...Longmuir made it clear he was not willing to push human
rights issues [to the Cambodian government] and his excuse was he didn't want Cambodia
to get into a polarized Burma-like situation with regards to human rights,"
a former Cambodian human rights worker said. "People told him what was going
on and he believed it, but he wasn't prepared to do anything."
UN human rights workers also frequently clashed with Longmuir following the 1997
coup due to what they called his attempts to dilute their accounts of the human rights
abuses by CPP-aligned security forces.
"Longmuir spent a lot of time criticizing the UN human rights office for its
reports after the coup. He claimed that the [UN agency] had a political agenda, but
when asked to point to a single fact that was wrong in the reports he couldn't. But
he never denounced the killings in public to my knowledge or in any way distanced
himself from the CPP [even though] these were brutal executions not in battle but
"The impression [among UN staff] was that [Longmuir] was protecting his own
position on the cocktail circuit. More important, he endorsed the unprincipled notion
that Cambodia needed a 'strongman' to sort its problems out and bring stability and
that Hun Sen was that man. So much for democracy."
While acknowledging Long-muir's "...close relationship with Hun Sen", Dr.
Lao Mong Hay, Executive Director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, defends Longmuir
for using that relationship as leverage to prevent further violence in the post-coup
Executive Director of the Center for Social Development Chea Vannath, who attended
a briefing on the CIDA project on April 6, said that she was taking a "wait
and see" attitude regarding the suitability of Longmuir's involvement with the
"From his past [behavior], I'm not sure [Longmuir's] the right person for the
position," Vannath said. "Whether he might have changed and thinks differently
in his new position and in a new job remains to be seen."
Repeated Post attempts to interview Gordon Longmuir regarding the allegations against
him were unsuccessful.
CIDA Senior Development Officer Liane Sauer admitted on April 5 that she had been
informed of Cambodian objections to Longmuir 18 months previously, but refused to
confirm whether or not that information had been forwarded to the Canadian NGO that
hired him. Sauer's promises to forward official CIDA comment on the matter prior
to Post deadline were not honored.
Nipa Banerjee, CIDA's Head of Aid for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, refused to comment
and asked the Post not to run any article about the controversy.
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