Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Playing games with rockets

Playing games with rockets

Playing games with rockets

The prime minister’s rocket test was intended to prevent war, not provoke it

COMMENT
By Sokchea Lim

Cambodia’s recent testing of rocket launchers has sparked some political responses in both the country and the region. Dr Carlyle Thayer, a professor of politics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, called the launch “a bit of theatre” on Hun Sen’s part. My personal response to him is that that “bit” can bite, in a strategic sense.

Thayer also added that the action would entrench the political influence of the military in society, making it harder for real civilian control to take place.

A similar analysis was made by Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. This was “an opportunity for Hun Sen to militarise or gain support for the military”, he said.

I guess the above comments were made on the basis of Cambodia’s political history and the current state of Cambodia’s politics. However, if we have a deeper look into the issue and from a conflict and resolution perspective, it should give more insights into the strategies played by commander in chief Hun Sen in order to achieve peace.

This is a game played by two players. Each player acts in complex interactive situations by choosing strategies that provide the best outcomes for each side. Game theory has been widely applied to the concept of conflicts and resolutions by studying the incentives that lead to war and the incentives that prevent it. Dr Robert Aumann, a game theorist and Nobel Prize laureate in economics, explained that what prevented the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union from turning hot was not disarmament, but the bombers in the air.

Likewise, actions taken by Cambodia including troop deployment, the establishment of a border committee, military budget increases, rocket testing, etc, are to assert a “threat to punish” or go to war if Thailand chooses to invade. If Thailand chose to invade and Cambodia chose to go to war, the result would be devastating. However, this outcome could not happen due to the reason that it was not in the best interest of Thailand to go to war, and engaging in war would earn Thailand nothing.

The stand of the Cambodian commander in chief, Hun Sen, is clear: Cambodia is committed to positioning itself as a peaceful neighbour and desires no war. As Hun Sen said, “This is a normal drill and preparation to defend the nation in case there is an invasion.”

Therefore, the signal sent by Phnom Penh should not be perceived as “regional instability”, which was noted by Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is an agreement strategically reached by both sides to prevent war. It is not in the best interest of either party to stage war, since war would result in huge losses for both countries. And a threat is necessary for the agreement to be enforceable.

Sokchea Lim is a PhD candidate in economics at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in the United States.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Kingdom, UN discuss rights

    A year after Cambodia received 198 recommendations from UN member countries, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Cambodia) met with the Cambodia Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to discuss following-up on the Kingdom’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and