Guide to pages
Cambodia's 1998 Election
(Page 7 of 9)
Diplomacy: From the Palace to the US Capitol
September 17, 1998
REPORT FROM SAM RAINSY'S MEETING WITH KING NORODOM SIHANOUK
Party president Sam Rainsy met with King Norodom Sihanouk today at the King's palace in Siem Reap. In the meeting, Rainsy requested that the fundamental freedoms and rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia be fully respected. He emphasized in particular the right to leave and enter the country freely, pointing out the importance of this right to carry out the spirit of the summit meeting now set for September 22 in Siem Reap, as well as the convening of the National Assembly, now set for September 24 in Siem Reap.
The King fully agreed with these points, and said that the Sam Rainsy Party was correct to demand these rights and freedoms.
The King and Rainsy further agreed that formation of a new government is separate from the convening of the National Assembly and can take place only after the National Assembly is convened.
Separately, Rainsy notes that his party retains the demands for reconciliation of the ballots and use of the legal formula for the July elections, and reiterates his party's commitment to upholding the will of the people.
- END -
The following letter was published in The Cambodia Daily on September 18, 1998:
Until now we have been reluctant to dignify Raoul Jennar's August 26 Internet diatribe against Sam Rainsy by responding to it. Now that it has been republished locally, in the Vision, we would like to respond in The Cambodia Daily because Jennar has misquoted the Daily along with Rainsy.
On August 25, The Cambodia Daily quoted Rainsy as saying, in translation:
"If troops are ordered against peaceful civilians, I appeal to government armed forces, the forces of Chea Sim and the forces of Sar Kheng and all soldiers and those compatriots from the border to rise up together and turn your gun point to get Hun Sen to step down from his position."
Jennar quickly seized an opportunity that most of us would never even notice. A snip here and a snip there, and he managed to rework Rainsy's statement into an unconditional call for the assassination of Hun Sen. For extra points he created an affiliation with the Khmer Rouge:
"I appeal to government armed forces, the forces of Chea Sim and the forces of Sar Kheng and all soldiers and those compatriots from the border [the remaining Khmer Rouge forces] to rise up together and turn your gun point to get Hun Sen."
Jennar goes on to credit The Cambodia Daily for the quotation he has so badly mauled. In fact, Rainsy has never asked the armed forces to shoot at any Cambodian leader. On the contrary, he has consistently appealed to them to refuse to obey illegal orders that violate human rights, such as an order to shoot at peaceful protesters.
Jennar-and the Vision-should refrain from altering quotations lifted from their journalistic betters, especially when it is for the purpose of libel. If Jennar feels he must manufacture evidence against Rainsy, he could do better than this clumsy job. Others certainly have.
There is no reason to comment on the rest of Jennar's work. But we do hope that someone is paying him for his efforts. It would be a pity if he were throwing away his credibility for nothing.
Cabinet of the President
Sam Rainsy Party
September 21, 1998
SRP DELEGATION TO SUMMIT ON TUESDAY
Party president Sam Rainsy will lead a delegation to meet with the leaders of FUNCINPEC and of the Cambodian People's Party on Tuesday, September 22, hosted by King Norodom Sihanouk in Siem Reap.
Four other SRP representatives will accompany Rainsy, including Vice President Kong Korm, Secretary-General Yim Sokha, Deputy Secretary-General Meng Rita, and Chief of Cabinet Eng Chhay Eang. Tioulong Saumura, a Member-elect of the National Assembly who is married to Rainsy, will also be in Siem Reap during the summit.
There has been no agenda set for the meeting. However, the SRP delegation plans to introduce a series of substantive items to be agreed upon in order firstly to create the conditions for meaningful dialogue at the summit itself, and secondly to determine fundamental goals for a possible coalition government.
MOST IMPORTANTLY for the former is that no further agreements can have any standing unless the CPP agrees to fully commit itself to freedom of movement for the opposition. Without that commitment, these will not be talks but merely coercion. To our knowledge only the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, have seen fit to express their concern at this obvious and egregious assault on the rights of the opposition. We are disappointed that the rest of the international community has shown no sign of a reaction to this state of affairs.
The SRP has no plan to discuss the composition of any coalition government until such a time as the necessary basis has been created through the talks and through agreement on a political program that addresses the crucial issues facing Cambodia, including: reducing corruption, protecting the environment, securing aid and trade, reforming the civil service, investigating past crimes, and introducing fiscal transparency.
Rainsy's flight departs at 6:30am and arrives in Siem Reap at 7:15am. The SRP group will travel with a United Nations escort provided by the Office of the Secretary-General's Personal Representative in Cambodia. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:00am at the King's palace.
For more information, call Rich Garella on 012-802-062.
STATEMENT - September 21, 1998
ALL EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS MUST END
The Sam Rainsy Party expresses its deep revulsion and anger at the systematic extrajudicial killings carried out by the government and its official and unofficial security forces.
We condemn these killings regardless of whether the victims are alleged to be democracy supporters, protesters or common criminals. We are disgusted by the public statements of police officials indicating that some of the victims unearthed by human rights workers were merely robbers, as if that gave the authorities the right to execute them or even torture them instead of using a legal process to investigate and prosecute them.
The Cambodian regime, through its consistent failure to identify or prosecute any human rights violators on any level at any time, has fostered a climate of justified terror on the part of the population. The international community should recognize that this climate of impunity is completely inconsistent with any form of democracy.
We offer our deepest sympathies to the families of all the dead, and our pledge never to give up our efforts on behalf of the rule of law in Cambodia.
Sam Rainsy, President
September 25, 1998
RAINSY FLIES TO BANGKOK
Party president Sam Rainsy and treasurer Yim Sovann departed from Siem Reap today on a regularly scheduled Bangkok Airways flight to Bangkok.
The airplane waited for ten to fifteen minutes as SRP officials negotiated with airport officials, who made several telephone calls, apparently to check whether to allow the two to leave. FUNCINPEC president Prince Norodom Ranariddh was already on board. The airplane took off at about 10am.
Rainsy said it seemed opportune to go at a time when the "travel ban" was said to have been lifted. He added that some time out of Cambodia would be a relief after the intense pressure of the last few months and particularly the last several weeks, and said he plans to return within a few days, possibly Monday. Both Rainsy and Sovann are members of the National Assembly.
For more information, call Rich Garella on 855-12-802-062.
September 30, 1998
RAINSY TO TESTIFY TO US SENATE DURING FOREIGN TRIP
Party president Sam Rainsy, MP, will testify before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on Friday in Washington DC.
Through his testimony, Rainsy will offer suggestions for US policy toward Cambodia in the near future, including the suggestion that the US should withhold recognition from any Cambodian government that is not legitimately formed under the law, that lacks a credible mandate from the Cambodian people, and that is formed without benefit of political reforms to create a basis for the rule of law. MP Tioulong Saumura will accompany Rainsy on the trip, which will include other meetings in Washington, New York, Paris and other European cities.
Rainsy is scheduled to leave Bangkok on Thursday morning, arriving at Washington DC's Dulles International Airport at 7pm. The Senate hearing starts at 10am Friday in SD-450. Rainsy is on the third panel. In the afternoon, he will meet with several Senators and Members of Congress, as well as the Special Assistant to the US President on Asia.
On Monday, October 5 Rainsy will meet with United Nations officials in New York, as well as members of various delegations, before returning to Washington that evening,
On Tuesday, October 6 Rainsy will meet with officials of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and on Wednesday he will speak before the Council on Foreign Relations.
Rainsy is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Paris on Friday, October 9. He plans to meet with a variety of officials and members of parliament during several European stops before returning to Bangkok or Phnom Penh.
He expressed his hope that the working group meetings between the parties will proceed in a productive direction, and that the questions surrounding the electoral process, including the method of seat allocation, are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and with respect for the will of the Cambodian people. In particular Rainsy welcomes the agreement between the three parties to ask the National Election Commission to reconcile the ballots, a procedure that must be conducted with complete transparency and appropriate participation by party and international observers in order to be credible. If the National Assembly meets for a working session he will make every effort to participate.
MP-elect Son Chhay arrived in Bangkok from Australia today. As he has not yet sworn in, he does not enjoy parliamentary immunity yet. He plans to make arrangements for swearing in with Assembly Dean Ing Kieth.
[Following is the testimony Sam Rainsy brought to Washington, DC. There may have been changes in it on actual delivery.]
Testimony of Sam Rainsy
President, Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Asia & Pacific Subcommittee
October 2, 1998
Mr. Chairman, I am very happy that I am able to be here today, and honored to tell the United States Senate about the situation in Cambodia after the elections and the important role that the United States can play there. Less than two weeks ago I could not even have left my country without being arrested.
The last few months have been among the most difficult in my life, and that is true for many Cambodians who support democracy. There have been some hopeful signs, but our experience in the recent election has been deeply disappointing and painful. What should have been a step toward democracy has turned out to be a step toward one-man rule by Hun Sen. Given his past record, it is not surprising that he wanted that. But it is surprising that the international community, for the most part, has made it so easy for him.
We in the opposition have said from the beginning that democracy cannot be built on an undemocratic foundation, without the rule of law. Throughout the electoral process we pointed out the many serious flaws in the process, and even withdrew from it at one stage. But under heavy pressure, we reluctantly accepted the assurances of the international community that the elections would be assessed fairly and not pre-judged.
Perhaps this was an error on our part, because the United Nations and most of the other sponsors and observers of the election did not effectively challenge the conditions that made a fair election impossible. Throughout the campaign our activists were harassed, threatened and killed with complete impunity. Since the coup in July of 1997 there were between 100 and 200 political murders that we know about, but not a single prosecution. To its credit the United Nations has documented the regime's campaign of intimidation quite thoroughly, but as I said, the killing has not stopped.
Only the ruling party had extensive access to the media over the last five years, while the other parties had just five minutes a day each during the one month before the polling day.
The ruling party took control of all electoral institutions, and used that control to skew the results and prevent transparency throughout the process. These institutions even doctored the method for seat allocation in the middle of the election process, changing it to one that is badly disproportional and would give the ruling party a majority of seats with only 41 percent of the official vote.
Our complaints were thrown out without due process, and when thousands and thousands of people demonstrated and demanded investigation of their electoral complaints, the regime cracked down, beating and shooting unarmed people, including Buddhist monks. Hundreds of peaceful protesters are missing, and the United Nations human rights office is still finding the bodies of dozens of victims. Many were tortured terribly.
And you have heard about all the false accusations that the regime has used as excuses to forbid opposition leaders from leaving the country, in order to frighten us into accepting a so-called coalition. I myself had to spend ten days hiding in the United Nations office, while the regime's paid demonstrators took over the streets, armed with clubs and guns. All this because the election authorities wouldn't obey the election law and wouldn't make more than a token effort to address complaints. They even refused to count up the used and unused ballots, which is a normal procedure and would be easy to do--if the election were clean.
Now the Cambodian people are confused, frustrated and angry. They don't understand why the international community is supporting the official election results and even pressuring the opposition to join a coalition, instead of pressuring the Cambodian government to obey its own laws. I myself have been criticized for a rhetorical statement I made, about the United States firing missiles at Hun Sen's house, in order to point out the consistently lawless and terroristic behavior of his regime.
If we are forced into a coalition without being able to correct underlying problems, Cambodia will be put back in the hands of Hun Sen. His record shows that he will do whatever it takes to stay in power, and that while he is in power there can be no rule of law in Cambodia. In the last five years we saw unrestrained corruption, human rights violations, environmental destruction, and exploitation by Hun Sen. He kept his political opposition in check while he building up his own political and military machine, in part by making deals with some of the worst Khmer Rouge leaders and giving them choice positions. Anyone who thought Hun Sen was the solution to Cambodia's problems should know better by now.
But we have to be realistic. We realize every problem cannot be solved at once. We have offered compromise after compromise because we do not want to obstruct any progress toward peace and development in Cambodia. We can even work with Hun Sen in some capacity, as long as we are working within the laws and Constitution of Cambodia.
It has been very painful for us to make the compromises we have made. We don't want to betray our supporters who only want democracy, but we don't want to endanger them either. That is why political reforms such as an independent judiciary must be introduced early in this process: so that the opposition leaders can negotiate without fearing for the safety of themselves and their supporters.
Without a proper and legal resolution of the problems with the elections, the elections will have no credibility among the Cambodian people. Unless there are political reforms, their desire for change--so clearly expressed on July 26--will not have a peaceful outlet. Instead of stability it will be who knows how many more years of corruption and exploitation, while the people of Cambodia become more bitter and angry over the way the international community betrayed them.
For better or for worse, the Cambodian people look to the United States as the standard-bearer of democracy and the conscience of the world. It was the United States that took Hun Sen's coup seriously last year. The reaction of the United States was one of the few times that Hun Sen has received a message other than one of accommodation.
Now we are at the end of the process that Hun Sen started with the coup. He expects that the world will legitimize his rule, and cloak his increasingly dictatorial behavior in the mantle of democracy. We are asking the United States to be the standard-bearer again, while there is still an chance to get Cambodia back on the road to democracy.
Mr. Chairman, we hope that the United States will make it clear that it will refuse to recognize any Cambodian government that is formed while no one even knows what the election results should properly be. The same goes for any government that is the result of coercion.
Until there is a legitimate government, we urge the United States to continue to withhold aid as it is doing, and to oppose IMF and other multilateral lending. We have to start cleaning up the corruption and introduce fiscal transparency to Cambodia, so that the aid actually helps the Cambodian people.
And until there is a legitimate government, we urge the United States to vote to keep Cambodia's UN seat vacant and oppose other international recognition, and to leave the ambassador's post vacant after the departure of Ambassador Kenneth Quinn. (I should also mention that it will be critically important that the next ambassador be someone who will take a very proactive approach to democratic development in Cambodia, because we are heading into a decisive period.)
Outside of the elections, we hope that the United States will intensify its efforts to expose the Cambodian regime's role in illegal logging, drug-trafficking, money-laundering and acts of terrorism such as the grenade attack on March 30, 1997 that killed at least 16 people. (We continue to urge the FBI to release its report on its investigation into that attack.)
I truly believe the United States has the opportunity now to make a historic contribution to my country's future by maintaining its leadership in support of democracy and human rights there. I thank you for those efforts in the past, and for the opportunity to explain our position here today.
October 4, 1998
A delegation from the Sam Rainsy Party will join the "working group" meeting on Monday, October 5, at the office of Chea Sim. There will be seven members in the delegation, which will be led by Ou Bunlong.
The Sam Rainsy Party hopes to resolve several issues in order to facilitate the next meeting of the National Assembly: We would like to see a legal resolution to the seat allocation issue; we would like to see amnesties for Prince Norodom Sirivudh, Prince Norodom Chakrapong, General Sin Song, General Nhiek Bunchhay, and General Serei Kosal; and we would like to see a general amnesty for all political accusations against opposition figures based on events leading up to September 24, such as "incitement" during the peaceful demonstrations, etc.
We note that although the National Election Committee has agreed to reconcile the ballots, it has not yet specified a date. Delays in this procedure will not speed the progress of forming a government.
The Sam Rainsy Party urges all sides to aid the process of forming the most democratic government possible by obeying the laws and the Constitution of Cambodia. A legal government can only be formed through legal procedures.
For more information, please call Ou Bunlong on 855-15-835-547 or Rich Garella on 855-12-802-062.
October 4, 1998
ROYAL GOVERNMENT MUST BE FORMED SPEEDILY, LEGALLY
We urge all parties to cooperate in creating the next Royal Government of Cambodia as soon as possible, according to the law and with respect to His Majesty the King and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Those who refuse to follow legal processes will only prolong the uncertainty created by the lack of a government while undermining the legitimacy of the next government.
In the interim, certain persons have been improperly acting in the name of the Council of Ministers. On Friday they purported to act on several matters of state, releasing a report on the past government's term, approving an extradition treaty with Thailand and approving a chemical weapons production ban.
The mandate of the National Assembly that empowered the previous Royal Government of Cambodia has expired and a new one has convened. There is no Government until the new Assembly votes its confidence in one, the King issues a Royal decree empowering it and the new Ministers take the oath of office, as per Article 100 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The Royal Government cannot exist independently of the National Assembly. The members of the former Royal Government of Cambodia are not entitled to act in the capacity of a Government. It is inaccurate for any individuals to refer to himself as a Minister with or without portfolio, or for any individual to style himself as first or second Prime Minister, etc.
We further note that according to Article 100, all Ministers must be members of a political party that is represented in the National Assembly, and that the Prime Minister must be an elected Member. Therefore, Mr. Ung Huot and certain other former members of the Royal Government are ineligible to continue in their previous positions.
Under the Constitution, each and every Member of the National Assembly may choose freely whether to vote for any proposed government as presented by the King's designate. They are not obliged to commit themselves in advance or accept any particular members. In fact, Article 77 forbids such a restriction on the Members' exercise of their consciences.
Cambodia cannot begin to address the serious problems it faces unless the Royal Government is formed in accordance with the will of the people.
October 11, 1998
NEC'S "RECONCILIATION" A GOOD FIRST STEP
We welcome the National Election Commission's October 10 announcement that it has begun to reconcile the ballots from the July 1998 elections. However we hope that the NEC's release was not meant to obscure the fact that no real reconciliation has been done yet. These numbers alone are completely unsatisfactory without eyewitness checking of the ballots as requested by the three main parties and agreed by the NEC.
The NEC's statement that "the total number of ballots equals the number of ballots printed" will be an empty claim until party agents and independent observers see the ballots for themselves. Totaling up the numbers on various reports is not enough, especially as the regime has now bought itself more than two months in which it could have adjusted them to fit the results it desires.
Promptly accounting for all the ballots--used, unused, spoiled and missing--is a normal part of a transparent and credible election. We have been asking for this procedure to be done in an open and honest manner for two months. The NEC refused to do it, most international observers inexplicably failed to press for it, and the regime's Constitutional Council threw out the requests. This failure further eroded the credibility of the election results and cemented the NEC's reputation as a agency dedicated to covering up electoral shortcomings. It was consistent with the NEC's unfortunate track record of secrecy and deliberate obfuscation.
The opposition has shown its willingness to compromise by dropping several other election issues. The NEC should not block the process of forming a legitimate government; rather it should quickly fulfill the requests of the three main parties and its own pledge to reconcile the ballots in a transparent and credible manner (NEC letter 554-98 of October 3).
For further information, please call Ou Bunlong on 855 (0)15-835-547, Rich Garella on 855 (0)12-802-062, or Ung Bun-Ang on 66-1-826-3175.
Paris, October 11, 1998
SUSPEND ALL LOGGING ACTIVITY NOW
During the period of rule by a de facto caretaker government in Cambodia, implementation of all logging contracts must be suspended. All cutting of trees must end along with all movement of timber and all exports of any forms of timber.
The current administration may not represent Cambodia in making contracts or agreements, or make any decisions with long-term consequences. It must preserve the nation, including the environment and state assets and resources, and pass them along unharmed and undepleted to the legitimate government when it is formed.
The irresponsible deforestation of Cambodia has already deprived many Cambodians of their livelihoods and their social and economic traditions. It has damaged Cambodia's biodiversity, deprived the national economy of income, and enriched a dangerous class of timber warlords linked to the regime and to the military. More damage will further alter the climate, allow erosion that fills irrigation channels and fishing grounds with silt, and leave Cambodian farmland ever more vulnerable to both drought and flooding. It will bring closer the famine that now threatens.
Once a legitimate government is formed, the Sam Rainsy Party will promote an effective policy to prevent illegal logging, regulate environmentally responsible logging, and implement a program of reforestation.
We urgently appeal to our neighbors, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, to help enforce a suspension of all logging trade across Cambodia's borders until a legitimate government is in place to cooperatively create a responsible policy for regional cooperation on environmental issues.
October 15, 1998
On October 13, in Brussels, party president Sam Rainsy met with:
Mrs Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck,
European MP, 1st Vice President of the
European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
Mrs Glenys Kinnock,
European MP and head of EU mission for Cambodian election
Mr Alain Destexhe,
Belgian Senator, President of the International Crisis Group
Mr Wolfgang Heinz,
Head of the Brussels office, Friedrich-Naumann Foundation
Mr Willem van der Geest, Research Director European Institute for Asian Studies
We are pleased to say that all the meetings were very friendly. Great interest was shown in Rainsy's analysis of the situation in Cambodia, and in the proposals and suggestions he made in order to find a way out to the current impasse.
For specific information on Rainsy's schedule in Bangkok, please call Yim Sovann on 66-1-826-3175.
October 16, 1998
COMPROMISE IS NECESSARY FOR THE SAKE OF THE NATION
The Sam Rainsy Party, together with FUNCINPEC, has already proven its willingness to compromise and to explore new directions in hope of forming a democratic government. We will continue to do our best to reach that goal, using every peaceful and legal means. The only thing we will not compromise is our commitment to democracy.
The disturbing comments made by the Vice President of the Cambodian People's Party this morning indicate that the ruling party remains unwilling to make any compromise at all. Instead it seems to be dedicated to a strategy of pure intimidation.
This is consistent with the its past actions, such as the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, the threats against opposition leaders, the illegal imprisonment of its critics inside the country, and the threats against foreign media and even the US Congress.
A meeting outside Cambodia, as suggested by the opposition, could place all parties on more equal footing, But the ruling party refuses to negotiate unless it is able to threaten its negotiating partners with arrest or worse. This would not be a negotiation, but a hostage situation, similar to the one that preceded the convening of the National Assembly.
Throughout the electoral process and since then, we have followed the rules, the law and the Constitution to the best of our ability. Our actions have never been meant to "divide the country" or to detract from its sovereignty, which we uphold strongly. They have always been strictly peaceful efforts made within the law and according to the law, and they always will be, because we hope for a Cambodia where political differences and political debate do not have to lead to warfare.
Meanwhile the ruling party has ignored the rules, trampled human rights and paid lip service at best to the law and the Constitution. It has refused to consider political reforms that are essential to real democracy. Despite winning a minority of the vote, it demands absolute power through control of every governmental mechanism. Such an unbalanced, unrepresentative outcome would be a mockery of democratic principles and a tragedy for the Cambodian nation.
We must work together to avoid such a disaster.
For more information, call Rich Garella in Phnom Penh (855-12-802-062) or Yim Sovann in Bangkok (66-1-826-3175, or firstname.lastname@example.org).
October 18, 1998
RESPONSE TO REGIME'S "WHITE PAPER"
We refer to the "White Paper" released in the name of the Council of Ministers, dated October 13, 1998 [and distributed October 18].
The White Paper is a masterpiece of selective quotation, distortion, and circular logic, thinly disguised by the slick language of the unnamed American public relations consultants working for the Cambodian People's Party.
Those who already support the position of the CPP will find it tells them what they want to hear. Those who examine it more closely will notice the usual half-truths and distortions. It is full of internal contradictions, unsupported assertions, statements out of context, false premises and predictable revisions of history.
The authors make a feast of the positive initial reports about specific stages of the electoral process (such as the JIOG report of July 27 which applied only to polling day and counting day) implying falsely that these were blanket positive assessments of the whole election. We encourage analysts to look at the original reports.
The most outrageous and disgraceful argument made is that the Sam Rainsy Party somehow caused the violence that the regime used against generally peaceful protesters. Those who organize, order and carry out acts of violence are responsible for those acts, period. The White Paper uses the reasoning that dictatorships everywhere use to justify their acts of violence. Meanwhile the tortured bodies of the regime's victims go without even a mention.
But it is difficult even for the CPP's highly paid spin doctors to completely hide the truth. They support the case that the opposition was railroaded into participating in the election, and their citations of the law and Constitution support the opposition's case that the seat allocation formula used by the National Election Commission was illegal.
The document, unwittingly paid for by the people of Cambodia and supposedly produced by the Government, exists only to serve the ends of the CPP. In that, it is another demonstration that Cambodia is in grave danger of becoming, once again, a one-party state as it was in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.
Further and more detailed commentary is being prepared. In the meantime, for more information call Ou Bunlong on 855 (0)15-835-547, Ros Sakarach on 011-811-448 or Rich Garella on 012-802-062. In Bangkok call Yim Sovann on 66-1-826-3175 or e-mail email@example.com.
Letter to the Editor
ORDER TO CEASE ILLEGAL LOGGING DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH The Cambodia Daily, October 20, 1998
I congratulate Mr. Tao Seng Huor, the previous Minister of Agriculture, on his order to end the traffic in illegally cut timber. Unfortunately it does not go nearly far enough, and like previous such orders will never be enforced.
Deforestation is one of the many critical problems Cambodia faces. The question we now face is whether the next government will be part of the solution or part of the problem.
Without meaningful political reforms or a National Assembly that guarantees that such reforms are possible, it is certain to be part of the problem.
Look at the record. The deforestation of Cambodia has deprived hundreds of thousands of Cambodians of their livelihoods and their social and economic traditions. It has damaged Cambodia's biodiversity, deprived the national economy of income, and enriched a dangerous class of timber warlords closely linked to the regime and to the military. It has cost Cambodia badly needed IMF loans.
Further damage will increase the erosion that is clogging irrigation channels and fishing grounds with silt, and will leave Cambodian farmland ever more vulnerable to both drought and flooding. It will bring closer the famine that now threatens our people.
That is why Tao Seng Huor's order falls short. During the period of rule by a de facto caretaker government in Cambodia, implementation of all logging contracts should be suspended. All cutting of timber should end, along with all exports of timber in any form.
The current administration must preserve the nation, including the environment and state assets and resources, and pass them along unharmed and undepleted to the legitimate government when it is formed.
At that time, Cambodia must cooperate with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to enforce a responsible regional environmental policy.
The current wrangling over the formation of a government is not mere political posturing or "bickering".
The reason the opposition insists on fair representation in the National Assembly and on political reforms is that without them, Cambodia will be left once again in the control of one party, without effective political balance. The pillaging of the nation will proceed, and the damage will be irreparable.
Sam Rainsy, president
Sam Rainsy Party
October 22, 1998
"CO-CHAIRS" OF ASSEMBLY WOULD BE IMPRACTICAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The Sam Rainsy Party remains firmly committed to a legal process to create a democratic Government in Cambodia.
The SRP must oppose any proposal to create a "dual presidency" of the National Assembly because such a system is contrary to the Constitution and could not function properly. The SRP will only support a FUNCINPEC nominee as the president of the Assembly.
The SRP maintains that the question of the seat allocation formula must be addressed and resolved. The proportional system with equal-valued votes that is specified in the Constitution and described in the Election Law would result in a majority of seats for the opposition, reflecting the majority of votes won by the opposition.
With a legal formula in place, the majority of Assembly Members would be able to implement the political reforms necessary to put Cambodia back on the path to democracy.
The SRP would support simultaneous parallel negotiations on the related issues:
* Technical issues: Proper reconciliation of ballots to lend some credibility to the election results, and resolution of the seat allocation formula question so the results are translated legally and democratically into Assembly representation.
* Political issues: Discussion of political reforms such as an independent judiciary, a properly formed Constitutional Council, guarantees of freedom from political accusations, and others.
* Procedural issues: Discussion of election of Assembly officials.
If there is a summit meeting of the leaders of the three main parties, the SRP fully intends to participate. If such a meeting takes place outside Cambodia, in an appropriate venue such as Beijing, party president Sam Rainsy will represent his party. If such a meeting takes place in Phnom Penh, then Ou Bunlong, the party's working group chairman, will be given adequate authority to negotiate on behalf of the party.
October 22, 1998
ON THE SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PARIS PEACE ACCORDS
On Friday, October 23, the seventh anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Peace Accords will be observed. Nineteen countries are now signatories to the Accords along with Cambodia.
The Paris Accords were intended to put Cambodia on the road to peace, political stability, democracy and development.
Seven years later, the promise that the Accords made to the Cambodian people remains unfulfilled. Cambodia stands on the brink of one-party rule.
With the Paris Peace Accords, Cambodia appealed as a sovereign state for the international community to support its transition to democracy. The international community took up the moral and political duty to remain engaged in Cambodia through that transition. It was a bold and noble effort.
Unfortunately the Accords failed to overcome the single decisive factor that would determine whether Cambodia could attain its goals: The ruling party has never adopted the basic premises of democracy, and has never given up the ability to enforce its will by undemocratic means.
Instead, the record shows that it has consistently taken every measure available, legal or illegal, to consolidate its power and crush its opposition, while doing its best to maintain the superficial appearance of compliance with the Accords.
Meanwhile the international community, which pledged that it would monitor and assist in that compliance, has fallen short. Perhaps "weary" of Cambodia and its problems, its commitment to the Accords seems to have faltered.
The most basic component of democracy, respect for human rights, is still no more than a dream. Those who perpetrate the abuses continue to enjoy complete impunity, despite the fact that the signatories to the Accords implicitly recognized that human rights are an essential building block of democracy, and created a special role for the international community in promoting them.
Seven years after the adoption of the Paris Peace Accords, it is time to revisit them and renew their unfulfilled promise. We urge the international community to undertake an honest assessment of its role, and to dedicate itself once again to supporting the principles embodied in the Accords.
October 26, 1998
FREE AT LAST: VANNAK LEAVES CAMBODIA
Ex-Prisoner of Conscience hopes to visit Cambodian groups in Australia
SRP security chief Srun Vong Vannak, who spent a year and a half in T-3 prison for a crime he did not commit, left Cambodia on Monday morning on a Royal Air Cambodge flight to Bangkok. During his long imprisonment he became a symbol of Cambodian resistance to the Hun Sen regime. He was also designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Accused by the Hun Sen regime of organizing the murder of Kov Samuth, Hun Sen's brother-in-law, in early 1997, Vannak was kidnapped by security forces and detained illegally in secret locations until, convinced his captors would kill him, he signed a confession. Although he renounced the forced confession at his public trial, he was quickly convicted and sentenced.
At the September 22, 1998 summit talk hosted by King Norodom Sihanouk in Siem Reap, party president Sam Rainsy asked CPP vice president Hun Sen to agree to a royal pardon for Vannak. The King said he would be happy to grant such a pardon if requested, and Hun Sen said he would request it as soon as Vannak's appeal was dropped.
About one week later, Vannak walked out of T-3 prison to rejoin his family and friends. Knowing that he can still be arrested at any moment, Vannak has now left Cambodia after spending three weeks with his family. Throughout his imprisonment Vannak retained his position as security chief for the Khmer Nation Party and its successor, the SRP, which paid for Vannak's airfare to Bangkok. There he will stay at the party office as he tries to arrange passage to Australia, where he plans to visit Cambodian organizations.
Vannak's ordeal is yet another demonstration that Cambodia is not a state of law in any sense. It is a state of continuing, systematic human rights violations, where the ruling party uses the courts as a political tool to eliminate its opposition. The judiciary system has built an appalling record: beating confessions out of suspects, inventing charges against its enemies, and convicting the regime's critics in political show trials. Meanwhile it has never prosecuted a single one of the thugs and murderers who maintain the regime's reign of terror. Even throughout the recent elections, impunity remained at one hundred percent. It cannot be worse.
The case of Kem Sokha, the former chair of the National Assembly's human rights commission, is an ongoing example. Sokha is living in hiding, with a warrant against him on political charges relating to last month's demonstrations. The regime made similar accusations against other members of the opposition in order to force them to stay in the country and participate in the legitimization of the election results.
Ruling party control of the National Assembly and its standing committee would give it the power to strip parliamentary immunity from current Assembly members and threaten them with arrest as well. The result would be that the ruling party could railroad any opponent into prison, including Assembly members. Effective democratic opposition is impossible in such a situation.
For more information about this case, call Ros Sakarach on 855-23-210-137. In Bangkok call Yim Sovann on 66-1-826-3175, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 27, 1998
COMMENTS ON THE REGIME'S ROLE IN THE HARDSHIP OF THE PEOPLE
The Cambodian regime, in its statements this morning on the opposition's request to the Asian Development Bank, has once again shown its complete disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law. Under the Constitution, only a government that represents the people can put the people under a new long-term obligation, such as a loan.
The regime blames the current economic hardships on the opposition. In fact, these hardships are caused by the ruling party's regime of large-scale corruption and organized thievery. It would be irresponsible for the democratic opposition to participate in the continuation of this ongoing tragedy.
The ruling party lacks a sufficient mandate from the people to form a government on its own. Therefore it must make some compromises so that a legitimate government can be created. This is the normal way in which parliamentary democracies operate.
The compromises the opposition insists on are those that would help bring Cambodia into a state of law. Without respect for the Constitution there can be no rule of law. Without the rule of law, the persistent food shortages and other problems in Cambodia will never be addressed. Gross human rights violations will continue, the forests will continue to be plundered and international aid will continue to be canceled out by corruption.
Rather than agree to a minimal program of political reform, the regime is holding the people hostage to its unbending demand for absolute power.
For further comment, call Yim Sovann in Bangkok (66-1-826-3175) or Rich Garella in Phnom Penh (855-12-802-062).
October 27, 1998
TALKS ARE STILL POSSIBLE
With regard to any suggestions of a summit hosted by King Norodom Sihanouk, the Sam Rainsy Party would certainly look favorably on any suggestion or proposal that the King makes after he leaves Cambodia. If such a meeting takes place at any location outside Cambodia, Rainsy will represent the SRP in person.
Meanwhile we are willing to participate in a summit meeting among the three parties inside Cambodia, and hope that such a summit can be productive, even though previous efforts have not been as fruitful as we wished. If such a meeting takes place in Phnom Penh, then Ou Bunlong, the party's working group chairman, will be given adequate authority to negotiate on behalf of the party.
Unfortunately it remains impossible for the party's president, Sam Rainsy, or the SRP's other elected Members of the National Assembly to return and take part in such talks in person, as there is no credible guarantee of their safety or their ability to freely leave Cambodia afterward if they choose. We hope that those, especially non-Cambodians, who urge us to return will make a further effort to appreciate the difficulty of our situation and strive to make such a guarantee credible.
We see no significant obstacle to a meeting outside Cambodia, except that it would deprive the ruling party of the opportunity to make hostages of us.
For further comment, call Yim Sovann in Bangkok (66-1-826-3175) or Ou Bunlong in Phnom Penh (855-15-835-547).
October 28, 1998
COMMENTS ON PRESS RELEASE FROM CABINET OF CHEA SIM
It appears that the ruling party is putting its president, Samdech Chea Sim, to the task of sugar coating the poison pill that its vice president, Hun Sen, demands that the opposition swallow.
The claim that the Cambodian People's Party is a normal political party without special influence is absurd. It is not based on reality. Anyone who is remotely familiar with Cambodian politics knows that the influence of the ruling party is pervasive throughout the country and at every level.
The CPP stacked the National Election Commission with its supporters. The result was an election in which nearly every possible rule was broken in order to favor the ruling party. Well over a thousand opposition complaints--from bribery to murder--were ignored. This was not a democratic election; it was a stage show for the international community, and the ruling party was the director. The NEC's refusal to do a simple ballot reconciliation, and its inability to show that it legally decided on a seat allocation formula show the CPP's hand. No matter how high the turnout was, the results are completely unverifiable. The Cambodian people have no way to know if their votes were counted.
Now the CPP has seized control of every governmental institution possible and is engaged in a struggle to seize control of the National Assembly's standing committee. It refuses to accept any role for the opposition that would give the opposition even the slightest leverage. It demands absolute power.
Had the CPP ended up with 86 seats, then it could go ahead and form a government. But it did not. Therefore it must compromise. Peaceful compromise is a necessary practice in parliamentary democracy.
However, the press release does not name a single concession that the CPP has made or will make to bring the nation closer to democracy and farther from one-party rule. How long must the Cambodian people wait?
For more information, call Rich Garella in Phnom Penh (855-12-802-062) or Yim Sovann in Bangkok (66-1-826-3175).
Globalization, National Sovereignty and Human Rights: Giving Human Rights Substance
Presentation by Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament, Cambodia
Delivered at the conference of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation "Human Rights, the Rule of Law, Democracy" October 23, 1998, Koenigswinter, Germany
One of the critical questions facing the international community today is when and how to intervene when gross human rights violations take place inside a sovereign state. This question comes to the forefront especially when the international community has taken up a special role of promoting democracy in that nation.
During the Cold War, decisions on human rights which should have been based on fact were determined instead by ideological positions. But in a world that is more and more interdependent, where economies are becoming more strongly linked to each other, it is clear that state violation of human rights consistently has harmful political and economic repercussions on the international community.
The problem of human rights is no longer one of definition and diagnosis. For the first time in human history there is near-universal agreement on what constitutes a human rights violation, and there is almost as wide a public acceptance of the fact that human rights violations are to be condemned and, if possible, stopped. We are closer than ever to a realization of the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted fifty years ago.
From the point of view of the international community, the main controversy now takes place between two groups. On the one hand, those who practice what they call "realpolitik" are willing to be flexible in their assessment of human rights violations and less than willing to critically examine human rights records. On the other hand those who are guided more strongly by principle insist on the same standards for all, reject any tolerance for violations, and actively seek the most effective ways to prevent violations.
These two camps might call each other the accommodationists and the interventionists. The accommodationists are usually better represented in the executive, which is guided by "raison d'état", while the interventionists are often centered in the legislatures where they are more free to be guided by principle.
They each find partners inside the country concerned. There, the strongest voices for accommodation normally belong to the state authorities who are depriving their own people of rights, or who want to retain the option of violating their people's rights if the need arises. The strongest voices for intervention are those who are being deprived of their rights--when they are allowed to speak at all.
While the accommodationists state their agreement with human rights in the abstract, they always seem to be looking for a reason to avoid a strong stand in defense of human rights. Typically they place the importance of national sovereignty above human rights. In this argument they rise to the defense of each other's sovereignty: China supports the "Myanmar" regime, Vietnam and Laos support the Cambodian authorities.
The reason put forward is "non-interference in another country's internal affairs." But those who put forward such a reason for not condemning human rights abuses in a country do not hesitate, by their statements, to actually interfere in the affairs of that country. For example, Lee Kwan Yew criticizes those who support Aung San Suu Kyi, saying her struggle is detrimental to Burma's economic development. Lee Kwan Yew's attitude is linked to the fact that Singapore is a major investor in Burma.
For any country the defense of national sovereignty is aimed first at preserving national unity. But it becomes harder and harder to achieve national unity when human rights are not respected. We see in the former Soviet Union and in Yugoslavia that it is increasingly difficult for nations to remain whole unless they find a way to represent the whole of their people. And they cannot represent the whole of their people without some form of democracy, autonomy and self-determination. These are impossible to achieve without respect for human rights.
Beijing presents the issue of Tibet as a problem of national sovereignty and national unity but it is also a problem of democracy and human rights in China as a whole. India, the largest democracy in the world, has been able to preserve her national unity by respecting basic human rights and has been able therefore to more strongly assert her national sovereignty. Germany's national sovereignty has never been re-asserted as strongly as in 1989 when the German nation achieved reunification on the basis of democracy and human rights.
As a necessary condition for democracy, respect for human rights is also essential to reducing the number of wars between different nations. Democracy means peace because two democracies never go to war. So it becomes clear that defense of human rights is not in competition with national sovereignty. In fact it furthers the cause of peace, while war weakens and destroys nations.
Not only is there is a relationship between rights and political stability, but there is a relationship between rights and economic stability. Lack of democracy and lack of respect for human rights lead to economic crises such as the financial crisis in East Asia today. Before the crisis struck, some leaders in the region were advocating the so-called "Asian way to democracy," and specific "Asian values" that de-emphasized human rights. Most of those who advocated this very dubious argument--Mahathir, Suharto, Lee Kwan Yew and others--have either fallen from power or now pin their hopes on a financial rescue by innternational institutions backed by the "Western" nations and all those which rightly advocate human rights as a universal concept.
Indonesia, for example, violated its people's rights in order to maintain, for more than 20 years, a corrupted economy in which the government had no accountability. The seeming economic success protected the Indonesian regime to a large degree from international criticism or sanction. But eventually this corrupt, exploitative economy was unable to withstand stricter controls designed to help escape the Asian economic crisis, partly because it did not enjoy the faith of its people. The insurrection was, thankfully, less bloody than it might have been. Unfortunately the damage to Indonesia's resources has been severe.
Whatever the political outcome, the concerned country then requires help from the international community in the form of foreign aid, loans, and so on.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Cambodia. The economy is in a shambles, and there is no sign of progress toward a modern, legal and efficient economy. Such an evolution cannot happen, because Cambodia is not a state of law and its rulers violate human rights freely. There is nothing to stop the ransacking of the economy.
In Cambodia, the international community has taken a leading role not only in providing aid but in resolving long-standing political and military conflicts and attempting to introduce democracy.
Exactly seven years ago, on October 23, 1991, this effort was formally initiated with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords by 18 countries along with Cambodia (Germany signed on later). I was a member of the Supreme National Council, which represented Cambodia's sovereignty at the time.
The Paris Accords committed the international community to the defense of human rights in Cambodia. Human rights were recognized as an essential building block of democracy. The international community took up the moral and political duty to remain engaged until the transition to democracy was assured. For its part, Cambodia appealed as a sovereign state for the international community to remain engaged in defending human rights.
Cambodia is now at risk of returning to the status of a one-party state, with little hope of being a productive part of the world economy. What was the mistake of the international community? I argue that the mistake was that the international community did not distinguish between its goals and its limitations. What started as an intervention was subverted by accommodation, and as the project slipped into failure, the accommodationists simply redefined success until they could claim it.
The case of the UN human rights center in Cambodia is instructive. This office exists by permission of the Cambodian regime. With limited resources, it has done by and large an excellent job of investigating and exposing human rights violations. Since Cambodia is a repressive state, the vast bulk of these violations are perpetrated by the regime or its military, or by the ruling party, which at this point is almost the same thing.
The interventionists praise the UN human rights center, while the accommodationists tend to see the center and its staff as troublemakers. In this they agree with the regime, which has threatened on several occasions to close the office down. The ironic result is that while the center produces the most conservative reports possible, these reports are not followed up by any effective action by the international community that sponsors the center. The documentation is provided, but it goes nowhere. There still has not been a single prosecution or conviction in any of the hundreds of cases of assaults and murders of oppositionists in the past few years. Meanwhile, the Cambodian authorities criticize the UN center and undermine its work. If they respected the Paris Accords, they would cooperate with the UN center and encourage its work.
But that is not the case. In the past months, during a bloody election process that was orchestrated by the ruling party and funded by the international community--mostly the European Union--the UN center produced report after report on attacks and killings of oppositionists. But accommoodationist tendencies elsewhere prevented any reaction from the international community beyond vague and ineffective statements of concern.
The course of the international community--to accept the elections--had been set by the accommodationists, who are now falsely claiming there was a democratic outcome,, and taking undue credit for it. These accommodationists can be expected to disengage as quickly as possible, given their desire to simply wash their hands of Cambodia.
Democracy entails good government, fiscal transparency, and political accountability to a population which is free. Cambodia lacks all of them, and without a vigorous defense of human rights it will never win them.
Unfortunately, Cambodia will remain an economic basket case, a drain on the regional economy, and a sinkhole for foreign aid, which still accounts for forty percent of the national budget. If you add in the NGO budgets spent on projects which are normally functions of government (physical infrastructure, education, health, welfare) you have sixty percent. A critical report from the UN Development Program, published earlier this week, points to the derelict state of the economy. By ignoring democracy and human rights, how can the present Cambodian regime speak about "national sovereignty," while sixty percent of the national budget is financed by international assistance?
Entering a commitment such as in Cambodia (or Bosnia, or Rwanda) raises the stakes for the international community's role. The question clearly changes: from whether the international community has the right or the duty to take an activist role in defending human rights, to how to go about the task, how to define the goals, and perhaps most importantly, how to assess the results.
Fortunately there is an ever-strengthening perception that violations of human rights in any country are a legitimate source of concern for other countries. The recent progress in the formation of an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity is an encouraging sign of this healthy trend.
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