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Denials heap shame on shame

Denials heap shame on shame

On January 28 the anti-Thai rioters brought great shame to Cambodia. Now, the denials

of responsibly by the very people who instigated and perpetrated the riots heap shame

on shame.

While making all the right noises to the Thai government since the riots, inside

Cambodia the people have been seized by a fit of denial. The newspapers that printed

the false rumors, Hun Sen's perpetuation of the rumor, the radio station that broadcast

new rumors, and most of all the students that committed the mindless and unwarranted

violence, all share responsibility for the riots. Yet, rather than accepting blame

for their actions, they prefer to point fingers: the newspapers and radio station

blaming their unverified sources, Hun Sen denying the obvious meaning of what he

said, the students and even their teachers shifting fault to the politicians for

what they themselves did with their own hands.

And now, following their leaders, the general public is engaging in the same type

of self-serving excuses. As they reluctantly accept that the original reasons for

the riots were bogus, they are developing new excuses such as 'The Thais take too

much money out of Cambodia', 'The Thais look down on Cambodians', and the most absurd

so far, 'The Thais tell people that Cambodians are always fighting and have violence'.

(Well, I guess the riots showed them, eh?).

Perhaps all of this denial allows some face-saving. Perhaps it serves some short-term

political goals. But it is teaching Cambodian youth that rioting is acceptable behavior,

and showing the world that Cambodia is not mature enough to learn from its mistakes.

Cambodia, it is time to face up to your crimes and miscalculations.

It is time for Hun Sen to say that he made a mistake.

It is time for the teachers to tell their students that what they did was criminal.

It is time for the newspapers to face up to their shoddy tabloid journalism.

It is time for the Cambodian people to admit that their racial hatred and nationalism

has led them to shame and embarrassment.

It is time to say that you screwed up and that you are sorry.

Yes, it will not feel good, but it will force the world to look up to a people big

enough to face their failings and correct them. Only then will the Thais, the tourists,

the diplomats and the international business community feel some assurance that Cambodia

will not repeat its shameful mistakes.

- Signed, An anonymous Cambodia-based businessperson who doesn't want his business

burned.

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