Phelim Kyne's "CIDA plan slammed for political bias" (Phnom Penh Post 10/8,
13-26 April, 2001, p. 1) is the filthiest piece of pseudo-journalistic hack work
and character assassination I have seen in years, except in some of the local press
which is alleged to specialize in that sort of work for pecuniary advantage.
It also seems to mark an ideological shift back toward a position many suspected
when PPP was founded, but which most of us over the years believed Michael Hayes
was trying to avoid, by keeping his pages open to writing of varying opinions. That
meant, of course, that opinion pieces should remain where they belong, in editorials
and letters, or clearly labeled as opinion pieces, not presented as news stories.
Cambodia does not lack newsworthy subjects, and there is no need for this type of
creative "man bites dog" non-news.
A "storm of protest" is alleged over Longmuir's appointment from "opposition
legislators, human rights workers and representatives of civil society". Who
is cited? Only, by name, one opposition politician; or does Peter Shier, who in his
career in Cambodia was openly a propagandist for FUNCINPEC, fit this category too?
Two human rights workers, or possibly representatives of civil society (it is not
clear which hat Kyne wants them to wear here) cited by name are extremely circumspect.
Lao Mong Hay is even said to have defended Longmuir's use of his alleged close relationship
with government leaders, and Chea Vannath adopts a wait and see attitude.
And what do the anti-Longmuir people say? That, according to Longmuir's wife, he
liked Cambodia so much he hoped to retire here. How utterly contrary to democracy
and human rights. That he was friendly with Prime Minister Hun Sen and adopted a
positive position toward the Cambodian government. Is that an illegitimate position
for an ambassador? Do they imagine that ambassadors should give support to minority
factions trying to overthrow the government? Certainly not when an opposition faction
espouses a racist ideology of a type which Longmuir's country, along with others,
once fought a World War to oppose. Peter Shier should take heed here. Moreover, according
to Shier, Longmuir's views were those of other ambassadors.
"After the 1997 coup [to quote Shier's outdated language], the great majority
of Phnom Penh's ambassadors had sided with the CPP, especially Hun Sen". Why
did the PPP not give weight to their opinions of Longmuir in assessing his worth
for his new post?
In my own experience, the views imputed to Longmuir by Shier and PPP's anonymous
chorus are widespread, and since 1997 increasingly widespread, among the knowledgeable
international community, including the ambassadors chided by Shier. This could have
been the nucleus of a real news story, for it has never been adequately reported.
If most of the ambassadors agreed with Longmuir, who are the anonymous diplomats
who allege that Longmuir's conduct in 1997 "made a mockery of the...National
Assembly", or that his "expressions of political partiality... went far
beyond the demands of realpolitik", or that he "never showed any interest
in developing a functional democracy", or that he "turned a blind eye"
to human rights problems? It might be interesting if their identities could be exposed
and compared with the ambassadors who agreed with Longmuir. At least the PPP might
have pressed them for exactly what Longmuir said or did to mock the Assembly, or
go beyond realpolitik (this remark in itself deriving, perhaps in Kyne's imagination,
from a gratuitous personal insult by Shier), or against a functioning democracy.
As it stands none of this is worth the paper on which it is printed. I ignore the
more personal slander, which the PPP should also have ignored, coming from sources
which make that a specialty.
Over the last few years Michael Hayes has on occasion said that he wished to sell
the Phnom Penh Post. Now I see that he has succeeded; and it is not only a newspaper
which has been sold.
- Michael Vickery