f rieda del Nuevos' "Chill goes through Cambodia spring" [PPP, Nov 18 - Dec 1] indeed sends a chill down the spine of Cambodians when they see that their hard-won gains in freedom, democracy and human rights are now losing out to what they had been experiencing in their recent past. Now a Prime Minister has pointed his finger "more" at the press than at the Khmer Rouge for the deaths of the three Western hostages in Kampot. Now two foreign journalists are banned for a report hurtful to the Cambodian government, and two newspapaer in Phnnom Penh are suspended or closed down for publications the Government did not like. Now jounalists are said to be facing threat and intimidation.
The use of scapegoats is common practice by irresponsible and, more often than not, authoritarian governments. In Cambodia, it is a shame that a government issued from the people has resorted to such practice, and has blamed the press for the ills or problems it is not capable of resolving.
At the moment, Cambodian society has bottled up a lot of oppressed feelings, anger, bitterness and grief. Furthermore, there are now in its midst stark inequality between the haves and the have-nots, ill-gained riches at the expense of the nation, injustice and corruption. All these are undeniable evil which Cambodian society so much hates yet cannot do much about. The press is pouring out and regurgitating those feelings, and excorsing the evil out of that society. It should not be prevented from doing so.
Is the Cambodian nation embarking upon the road to serfdom again now? Whom should it look to in order to stop this trend? The power that be that has set it? Ordinary citizens? Men in the street? Peasants? No. It is incumbent upon intellectuals and other educated people to stop that trend. Actions mucst come from them before it is too late. This social stratum condones the erosion of freedom, democracy and the respect for human rights at its own and its nation's peril. Past holocausts in Cambodia itself and in other countries happened when intellectuals did not do anything to stop such trends and/or when they collaborate with rulers who set them.
Can Cambodia forget its past holocaust as it apparently does now? History can repeat itself.
However one might think or whatever one might do or not do at this juncture, let them not forget French political philosopher Condorcet's warning that when there is a difference between liberties and equality as provided for by the country's statutes on the one hand, and those actually enjoyed by the people on the other, that country would eventually fall under foreign slavery.
Cambodia has experienced foreign slavery many times in the past, has it not.
- Tam Navabotr