Cambodia: On Independence Day

On this day November 9, 64 years ago, in 1953, Cambodia had been freed from the French protectorate, the Independence was proclaimed at a grandiose ceremony with a parade of military and “living forces” composed of civilian and students, men and women, in front of the Royal Palace under the sound of the marching band. The then King Norodom Sihanouk was recognized as the “Father of the Independence” because of his successful initiative in leading the Royal Crusade for Independence.

In Phnom Penh today, there is a ceremony in great pomp and fanfare for this 64th commemoration led by King Sihamoni with government officials, the military, the youth and the members of the diplomatic corps. It looks great, but behind this rosy façade, the country is facing with a political turmoil with the government led by the Cambodian People Party (CPP) working hard to dismantle the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) seen as too much of a challenge for the next July 29, 2018 general elections.

So what the next elections have to do with the Independence of Cambodia?

A brief historical background may help. Yes, after the proclamation of November 9, 1953, unfortunately, the Kingdom was still infested with the remnants of the Vietnamese communists and their local ranks and files known as the Khmer Vietminh. It was until 1954 with the resolutions of the Geneva Paris Conference that Cambodia was completely independent. The communist Khmer Vietminh were unsuccessfully trying to get the country divided like in Vietnam and Laos. Since then they were organizing into pro-communist local organization known as the People Party and even signed up for the 1955 general elections. They were losing out and some of their leaders were taking refuge in the marquis working secretly with their colleagues in North Vietnam. Some others were hiding with the local people and organizing in sleeping underground cells. These are then members of the Cambodian People Party (CPP) that is the new name of the pro-Vietnamese Khmer People Revolutionary Party, since 1991, the party that is de facto, ruling Cambodia since then.

After the change of 1970, the war that was resulting and led by the Khmer Rouge with the help of the communist Vietnamese troops and after the Geneva mandate in 1973, they changed camps and can’t win over the Khmer Rouge, instead, they fought against them starting on the Christmas day of 1978, with the help of the regular communist Vietnamese army. And the CPP army was reborn since then.

This is to explain the origin of the militant solidarity of the CPP with the Vietnamese Communist Party. At the 1993 elections organized by the United Nations as mandated by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, the CPP lost to the royal party FUNCINPEC, but the CPP after a violent coup in 1997 forced their way to take over the government. Since then, the CPP run supreme until only now that they feel threatened with the possible victory of the opposition based on the increase of the opposition party at the last commune elections.

To avoid the expected loss, the only way for the CPP is using the “lawfare” tactic to neutralize and abolish the CNRP. What the CPP plan to do is in complete violation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, and provoked general condemnation from the world community. Only communist China and communist Vietnam were prone to accept the ignoble action of their protégé Hun Sen, the strong man of Cambodia, in the name of their “militant solidarity”.

So now is Cambodia really independent, 64 years after King won over the French colonial rules?  The answer is no, and this is dangerous for the future of Cambodia.

It is good conclusion to say that it is common understanding that if the government is no longer act to protect national independence and integrity, the people may resist. Hopefully the CPP would accept to go really democratically, and play the game on the same playing field, for the sake of national survival.

Ta Prohm Kel


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