Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pluralism takes root in Cambodia

Pluralism takes root in Cambodia

Pluralism takes root in Cambodia

"THE Western brand of democracy is not applicable to Cambodia." In spite

of statements like this, which ignore that the basic principles of democracy are

not Western but universal, independent Cambodia has never enjoyed such a level of

pluralism as it has today.

With around 10 political parties actually active, with move than one hundred local

non-governmental organizations and a dozen of them working in the field of human

rights, with a union fighting for the rights of workers, with more than thirty newspapers

in Khmer and several of them expressing divergent opinions, it seems to me untrue

to say that Cambodia is not a pluralistic society.

Thus, while the government is failing to encourage this trend in pluralism, while

the National Assembly has been extremely slow in creating the legal grounds for rights

protected by the Constitution, and while political leaders sometimes try to prevent

the creation of new areas of autonomy within society, there have also been many instances

of pressure, intimidation, politically-motivated killings, and insincere and legally

groundless deadlocks. But pluralism in Cambodian society does exist in spite of the

government. This poor involvement of the authorities precisely shows that genuine

pluralism is emerging, step by step, and that it is a process which stems from efforts

of the people at the grassroots.

Nevertheless a lot of foreign observers are blaming Cambodia today for its failure

to implement the legal Nirvana which is called "The Paris Agreements".

International critics of the current situation in Cambodia should keep in mind that

conflict is by nature a part of the political process. One should not forget how

long and how hard the struggle was for improvements in the respect for human dignity

on both sides of the North Atlantic ocean. These developments emerged with successes

and failures and always from conflicted situations.

How could such a move to an open society be possible by decree, and without tension?

Democratic elections are insufficient to create democracy. Democracy needs a level

of education, political consensus and above all a strong will expressed by the people

themselves - without ignoring how important the local realities, the culture and

the historical background are on the way to genuine democracy.

Many human rights activists expect a level of perfection from Cambodia which doesn't

exist in London, Paris or New York. The UN blames Cambodia for the expulsion of anti-Hanoi

activists to Vietnam, but the UN remained silent when Cambodian refugees in Thailand

were forced during the eighties to move back into Khmer Rouge zones; the UN remained

silent when Japan expelled to Beijing Chinese pro-democracy activists; the UN remained

silent when, by charter airplanes, France expelled immigrants back to African countries.

With such double standards, there is a real lack of credibility on the side of those

who have spent much time in print or in speeches giving lessons to the Cambodians.

Democracy is a never ending quest. The Cambodians have just started from scratch.

They are on the road again. This is the key point.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.