John C. Brown's "'Victory' is Not Everything" (Post vol. 2, no. 12) deserves
compliments for the sensible way in which he put the election in proper perspective.
But in the end he blamed the wrong people for possibly misleading the Cambodian public
about 'winners' and 'losers'. It was not the international press, which few Cambodians
see, but UNTAC radio, which "all across Cambodia, citizens [were] glued to...".
Starting on Saturday night, May 29, UNTAC radio enthusiastically announced FUNCINPEC
was ahead in three provinces and Phnom Penh, and this was repeated several times
that night, although as Tim Carney cautioned in a broadcast the following morning,
that was only two percent of the total vote. Thereafter every day the total vote
of each major party and the number of provinces 'won' by each was emphasized and
the proportional process which would determine the number of seats was rarely noted.
This is what influenced the Cambodian public. The international pressmen may not
even have read the Paris Agreement or the electoral law, but the UNTAC Information
Component which runs UNTAC radio is loaded with Cambodia expertise, and they know
precisely what effect their work has on the Cambodian public.
Although it is true that "there has never been a 'loyal opposition' in Cambodia"
(indeed, for leaders in the 1960s 'golden age' to which so many wish to return, the
very idea of opposition was treasonable), Brown should not just blame Hun Sen for
misunderstanding the need for co-operation. Co-operation between the CPP and Prince
Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC in preparation for the election was nearly achieved last year.
The reasons for its failure are still unclear, but one great fear of Pol Pot, expressed
in his seminar of February 1992, was the possible defection of Prince Ranariddh to
Phnom Penh, and one of his major goals for the coming year was to prevent it.