Wednesday, May 28, 2008Editorial by Khmerization
“Mr. Hun Sen’s declaration of a solo government and running the parliamentary commissions by his own party alone is an attempt to lead Cambodia away from democracy toward dictatorship. In reality, Mr Hun Sen is advocating a government of national disunity instead of a government of national unity.”The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen, is notorious for his bullying character and a thuggish behaviour and, to a certain extent, his profanity. His other notoriety, hidden from public view, has been his namesake of ‘a boss from hell’.
All these notorieties notwithstanding, his famous trademarks have been his broken promises. The promises of resignations had never been materialised. The PM had made promises on numerous occasions to resign if he could not stop illegal loggings, could not curb corruption and tackle land-grabbing from powerful people serving in his government. These abuses are still rampant and we have yet to see the PM resign.
A few days ago, he had made a surprised announcement of another of his broken promises- that he had decided to cut ties with his long-term ally, the Funcinpec Party. The PM announced that his marriage of convenience with the Funcinpec Party is no longer needed. This means that his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will go solo without a coalition partner. The PM has back-flipped on his earlier repeated promises of forming a coalition government with the Funcinpec Party no matter what. So what changed his mind? The only explanation would be that Mr. Hun Sen is 100% sure, and has been assured by the National Election Committee, that his CPP will win the upcoming election with a comfortable margin. So, after having been used and abused by Mr. Hun Sen for his own political gains for more than 15 years, should Funcinpec invest its trusts in Hun Sen’s empty and broken promises anymore?
Another of Mr. Hun Sen’s worrying declaration has been his decision to govern the National Assembly by himself. Currently the positions for the parliamentary commissions have been shared among the parties that won seats in the election. It would be a travesty of democracy if the parliamentary commissions are not distributed proportionately to the seats won by the individual parties. Mr. Hun Sen’s declaration of a solo government and running the parliamentary commissions by his own party alone is an attempt to lead Cambodia away from democracy toward dictatorship. In reality, Mr Hun Sen is advocating a government of national disunity instead of a government of national unity. Mr. Hun Sen had declared that he had already appointed the people to head the nine parliamentary commissions. To seasoned political observers, Mr. Hun Sen is behaving like he is winning the election already. And to experienced political observers, this sort of behaviour seemed to reinforce the suggestions that Mr. Hun Sen has no intention of relinquishing power should he loses the election.
Seeing the tense political atmosphere at present, one cannot avoid touching on the issues of defections. While people are free to join any party they like, tactics employed by a certain political party to coerce defections are worrisome. Defections from the oppositions to the ruling CPP are not spontaneous but coerced and bribed. The defectors have been unnecessarily appointed to the highly paid positions inside the already inflated bureaucracy. By any standard of government, this is corruptly squandering public money for one’s own political gains, and it is morally wrong. The money that have been paid to these defectors, who won’t have any real jobs to perform inside the bureaucracy, should be diverted to fund the pay increases for public servants like the teachers, the police, the army and administrative bureaucrats in order to assist in reducing corruption.
Coming to this point, one cannot help but mention the issue of corruption. Mr Sam Rainsy was right when he said that political buyouts are Mr. Hun Sen’s attempts to whitewash and divert public attention from the real issues of corruption and economic problems. Mr Hun Sen’s inability and, to a certain extent, his reluctant to deal with the current soaring prices of goods reflect on his conflict of interests. His daughter’s owned Tela Petroleum Company has a monopolistic right of imports of refined petrol to Cambodia. News coming out of Cambodia recently is that Tela has received government subsidy in the form of tax reduction to the tune of around $100 million dollars per year. And due to monopolistic rights given to Tela, all the petrol companies like Total, Shell and others must buy their petrol from Tela. Only Sokimex has its own imported petrol but must set retail prices commensurate with Hun Sen’s Tela. And the result is that it is a price collusion between Tela and Sokimex which kept the petrol prices very high.
The soaring prices of goods at present are related to the costs of petrol. While the petrol prices remain high, the prices of other commodities will always remain high. In order to curb the food prices, petrol prices have to be brought down. Hun Sen doesn’t have the will to resolve the current price hikes because it would affect his daughter’s petrol business. Hun Sen was just paying lip service when he said that he will do what he can to curb the current high food prices. The fact is, he will not do it because he has a conflict of interests. So, his promises for the solutions to the food prices have become another statistics of his many broken promises