Political science defines a civil war as an internal conflict in a country that violently opposes, through armed aggression, the citizens of the same country among themselves.
A civil war starts when citizens reject the dialogue between opposing political opinions and call for violent confrontation. In breaking the national consensus, the role of the armed forces is obviously of prime importance.
When it is called to take sides in a political conflict leading to this stage of division among the people, the conditions of the civil war are met.
This is exactly the situation Cambodia is currently facing since former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy called on the armed forces to rebel against the country’s legitimate institutions.
It is not a question here of indulging in a gratuitous accusation in the context of a political controversy. It is a question of recalling the chain of indisputable facts that led the country to the edge of the precipice.
Now let’s recall these indisputable facts.
After the post-election violence provoked by Rainsy and his party in late 2013-early 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed to him to renounce violence and practice a “culture of dialogue”.
Rainsy agreed and, with his status as leader of the opposition, became the Prime Minister’s direct interlocutor.
Despite the growing opposition to this “culture of dialogue” within the CNRP, especially from Kem Sokha, for about a year, a new political climate settled in the Kingdom and important reforms were made.
A relationship of trust was established between Rainsy and Hun Sen. One day, at the invitation of the latter, the two families spent a happy evening together in a famous hotel in Phnom Penh – an event that is remembered as the “selfies party”.
A few days later, in an interview with an important foreign newspaper, Rainsy violently attacked the man who had trusted him, and put an end to the “culture of dialogue”.
This major political rupture has never since been raised or written about by Western newspapers, analysts, human rights NGOs and institutions that often comment on Cambodian politics.
When Cambodian leaders are insulted and defamed under the protection of Westerners and Western powers, everything is allowed.
In the same vein, mainstream Western media have systematically described as “widely seen as politically motivated” the judgments condemning Rainsy.
But one must remember that the Cambodian courts’ judgments are identical to those pronounced three times by French courts which had also recognised his defamation of the government.
It is these precise judgments that provoked Rainsy’s self-exile, which he uses to portray himself as a “victim”.
US conservatives with the Heritage Foundation have decided to lend their full support to the CNRP, which represents an alternative formula under a regime change it (Heritage Foundation) has been calling for.
Since the US failed to remove the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from the political scene in 1993, its European counterparts, along with Friedrich Neumann Stiftung, have followed suit to advance this agenda.
Already, in the neutralist years of Sihanouk, Sam Sary, backed by the US, declared himself a supporter of a rally in that country and plotted against the legitimate institutions of the Kingdom – to the point of attempting to assassinate the Head of State.
Whether it is an irony of history or genetic fatality, his son, Sam Rainsy, has chosen the same path of violent rebellion with the very same support.
This project of regime change by undemocratic methods became evident when Kem Sokha – Rainsy’s successor as CNRP head – made the mistake of publicly bragging about having the US’ financial and intellectual support to bring about the overthrow of the Cambodian government.
“The US has helped me to implement the models of Yugoslavia and Serbia”, he said. The evidence gathered led to his arrest and the dissolution of the CNRP, the political instrument of pro-US subversion.
Since he failed to overthrow the legitimate government of the country, Rainsy, like his father, has embarked on a desperate enterprise of open rebellion and destruction.
He is campaigning with Western governments to close their markets to Cambodian products, thereby taking the risk of destroying the Kingdom’s industrial apparatus and plunging one million workers and their families into unemployment and misery.
Not only that, he even urged the Cambodian armed forces to rise up against the government apart from appealing to racial hatred and ultra-nationalism that are akin to Pol Pot’s policies.
It was a real call for civil war. This man is a threat to the peace in the Kingdom and with neighbouring countries.
Cambodians have not forgotten that the civil war was provoked by people like Rainsy in 1970 and that too with the same American support.
They remember that the war led to one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century. And everyone knows that civil war is not simply a war. It does not only oppose armies, but civilians gangrened by division.
There is nothing worse than the horrors of a civil war that divides families, friends and students. There is no limit to hatred and violence in a civil war. There is no limit to suffering.
Civil war is the armed violence in the heart of society. This is what Rainsy is advocating by setting Khmers against each other, exasperating the hatred of the other.
By the methods he uses, Rainsy is everything but a democrat which he claims to be. His populism, racism and ultra-nationalism threaten the young Cambodian democracy and peace in the region.
A democracy must protect itself against what threatens it. It was the imperative duty of the Cambodian government to prevent history from repeating itself.
Hun Sen did so at the risk of violent criticism from so-called international defenders of democracy and Western supporters of sanctions against Cambodia. But maintaining peace and stability sometimes require taking great risks.
Peace has reigned in Cambodia for barely 20 years. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords and the United Nations failed to bring peace. It was Hun Sen’s “win-win policy” that brought peace late in 1998.
In less than 20 years, thanks to government actions, the Kingdom has experienced an exceptional rate of development and a real renaissance.
Fundamental human rights such as the right to health, education, housing and work, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 22 to 26), have been the top priority of those who have the arduous task of rebuilding a devastated nation, deprived of human resources and having undergone for 12 years, the pitiless embargo by Western nations.
Should Cambodian peace now be endangered by allowing a populist, racist, irredentist, violent and bellicose opposition to carry out its seditious projects? Even if this dangerous party enjoys the support of the West?
Cambodians have experienced first hand, the little interest the West has when the Kingdom’s survival is in question. So why should they now trust the West when it supports the one who sows the seeds of civil war?
Cambodians have learned the lessons of Western hypocrisy. We invoke “values and principles” when it comes to Cambodia, but we forget them when it comes to resource-rich countries that the West needs.
Dr Raoul M Jennar PhD