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An Unpleasant New Year Gift

A Little Bit of Cambodian Politics…

Cambodia seems to enjoy making unpleasant headlines regardless of what occasion.

While many countries in the world were celebrating New Year’s Eve, the Cambodian government decided to arrest two human right activists - one of whom was Mr. Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and one of the most the prominent critics of the government.

On the first day of the year 2006 his arrest was in the headlines of most sites that offer news related to Cambodia. It was an unpleasant and unwanted New Year gift for those-including me- who were expecting to read something fun from Cambodia on the supposed-to-be a joyous day. So when the headline came we were really very upset. We started to wonder if this is a bad omen for the future of freedom of speech in Cambodia-and the future of democracy as a whole.

Logically speaking, if Kem Sokha’s arrest is a bad omen, it isn’t the beginning. The first bad omen began two months earlier, when another two of the most prominent government critics, Mr. Mam Sonando, owner of Beehive Radio, and Mr Rong Chhon, leader of The Cambodian Teacher Association were arrested; and many others, including opposition leader, Mr. Sam Rainsy, were forced to live in self-exile, fearing of similar arrests should they remain in the country. This is not to mention the jailing of Mr. Cheam Channy, a parliamentarian from the opposition party.

In short, 2005 was an unfortunate year for the fierce critics of the government. This raises one question: who will be next in the year 2006? If all these critics who are quite well-known to international community can be easily arrested and sent to the Prey Sar prison, there is little hope that the government will spare other critics who are less well-known to the world.
It is worrisome to think that this is merely the beginning.

Cambodia has always proclaimed itself as a democratic country that adhers to the freedom of speech. But it arrests and jails critics. It has always expressed its will to become a lawful state, with a true independent court. But it’s obvious that it is using the court to silence opposition voice. One knows that freedom of speech and an independent court are crucial to any true democratic society. Taking away these two most important aspects of the system means the collapse of democracy.

It is much more worrisome to think that the young democracy in Cambodia is dying; that the Cambodian government has deliberately chosen to walk on the wrong track; and that it prefers the authoritarian political system instead.

5 Responses to “An Unpleasant New Year Gift”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    What will become of our beloved Cambodia? It is definitely in the hands of the younger, educated generation. That is, if they choose not to look the other way.  

  2. # Blogger Wanna

    Younger/educated generation? When will the older generation die??!! Cambodia has accepted bureaucracy. From father to son, from son to grandson,.. :-(  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    From our new generation please study hard for the future of our country. There will be some resolution for this bad situation. Don't discourage because of this story. Fighting for the new day coming...  

  4. # Blogger dara

    yeah, I agree that new generation will change the situation but please don't use violence to solve the problem. I am really afraid that our beloved country will walk backward again.  

  5. # Anonymous Anonymous let me rephrase that. The only chance for change relies on the younger, educated generation living abroad. If we, as khmers, don't give a damn about the situation, why would anyone else will? Anytime anyone in Cambodia makes a statement, they're sent to jail and their lives are threatened. Those who have the freedom to speak their mind without fear of being arrested should do so. Write letters to your local congressman, gather your fellow cambodians, start petitions, make demonstrations. We've got to make the world take notice...  

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