I am much amused by the remark made by 'one observer associated with Funcinpec dissidents'.
According to the observer you only fight back if you have your back against the wall
(Phnom Penh Post, Mar 22- April 4).
Whilst lashing out against some officials for their perceived opportunism, the observer
preferred to speak from behind his own wall of anonymity, a practice shared by Phnom
Penh's gossip circles in which MPs, diplomats and mysterious 'observers' have made
themselves famous by opting (wisely) to be unknown and unnamed.
Anyway, does anyone seriously believe that depriving the officials (who use their
high positions to amass personal fortunes) of their duel citizenship privilege would
render them less self-seeking and more in tune with the plight of their less fortunate
The rumored campaign to force returnees to give up one passport in favor of keeping
the other is yet another predictable scheme conceived in a mind governed by nothing
less than Machiavellian paranoia.
Having sought to suppress all conceivable forms of liberal democratic expressions
- from the freedom to stage peaceful demonstrations to the use of issues of foreign
language newspapers in the classroom - I am not impressed by the CPP's latest desire
to block off opposition or potential opposition and harmful influence emanating from
distant sources (see Vietnam's current campaign to stamp out "cultural pollution")
which could over time help to undermine existing power arrangements.
Jason Barber is right to point out that there is a "those who left and those
who stayed behind" attitude to the Vietnamese occupation - something the CPP
leadership has tried (unsuccessfully) to make political capital out of.
"We have always remained in the country" they insist, despite the fact
that most of them had spent the greater part of their lives in exile in Vietnam,
many since the fifties, and only returned following the Vietnamese invasion to nominally
occupy the vacuum left by the Khmer Rouge's departure from power.
One difference between the CPP returnees and their Funcinpec counterparts is that
the former do not carry foreign passports. But this is less to do with any self-proclaimed
patriotism than with the circumstances of their exile.
Hanoi has always been anxious to play host to troubled but aspiring young 'Cambodian
brothers' who would someday prove to be ideal instruments by which to advance its
It was these brothers who would later sign away chunks of the eastern provinces to
Vietnam and who currently remain embarrassingly silent over the border issue.
The bulk of the overseas Khmers are just ordinary people who only want the best for
their family and ancestral homeland. The Khmer exodus, like the Jewish one, was not
a planned or deliberate historical occurrence.
If anything you will find hints through out the Old Testament that exile can be a
most agonizing experience for those who have to go through it.
And perhaps, arguably, the international community's most meaningful contribution
to Cambodia's long-term social development (a concern of all quarters) has been role
it plays as host to thousands of refugees, the more productive among whom are the
younger generations less touched by the war and the philistine effect it often has
Let us hope then that liberality and the sanctity of truth prevail over cynicism
and hypocrisy. Or is this too much to ask ?
- Marith Pen, London.