Book Review: Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia


April 16, 2019

Book Review:

Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia

Garry Rodan (Cornell University Press, New York, 2018)

 

Those of us who study politics differ on whether our discipline is rightly termed a “science”. People who weigh in on the “scientific” side tend to emphasise, alongside the permeation of numbers and deductive hypothesis-testing, the stock of knowledge we have accumulated: core concepts and theories, tested and refined over time. With his provocative latest book, Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia, Murdoch University’s Garry Rodan puts years of field research and insight honed over decades to work to prove that such pretensions are more aspirational than well-founded. His argument, taken to its logical conclusion, impugns much of what political scientists study when we study “democracy”. It suggests we have missed the crux both of what distinguishes regime types, and of what sorts of political dynamics spur, constitute, and emerge from transitions. And his argument is convincing.

Southeast Asia—home to a bewildering array of institutional innovations—offers Rodan a trove of variation to mine, as he probes how these states really function. Those readers familiar with Rodan’s extensive oeuvre will note points of continuity with his earlier work: the inseparability of politics from economic forces, the salience of civil society, the crafty ways in which regimes and their leaders sustain dominance. With its rich detail and critical perspective, this book seems something of a capstone as Rodan approaches formal retirement, bringing his rich, career-spanning material on Singapore as well as Malaysia into conversation with a similarly nuanced discussion of the Philippines, and weaving together theoretical threads.

Participation without Democracy places modes of participation (MOPs) front and centre, characterising regimes in terms of both the extent and the type of participation and contestation possible. The book is explicitly oriented toward theory; hopefully the words “Southeast Asia” in the title will not deter readers focussed on other regions. But Rodan builds his analysis with fine-grained evidence, astutely assessed, from his three cases.

He proposes that elites meet the challenges that contradictions of capitalism pose—rising inequality, social disruption and others—by introducing new modes of popular participation. Elites use these MOPs to contain and channel dissent, while deepening concentrations of power and wealth; opponents sometimes hope these same modes offer tools to dismantle elite power. The “central paradox” Rodan traces is the extent to which “expanded political representation—in both its democratic and nondemocratic forms—is serving more to constrain political contestation than to enhance it”. Regimes and the elites at their helm find ways of serving their own interests by strategies that may look participatory on paper but, in practice, narrow the space for contestation and fragment or co-opt challengers.

Political scientists have long placed participation and contestation at the fore of definitions of democracy, but usually with a primarily electoral focus and more as indicators to be measured than as patterns requiring qualitative evaluation. Rodan demonstrates that we need to delve deeper: to ask not just whether participation happens, but who can participate and via what modes, which questions are open to debate and what happens to input gathered. He brings ideology squarely into the frame, not just vis-à-vis neoliberalism—he presumes elites are devout capitalists and popular opponents, less so—but also as shaping how citizens and states engage and pursue their respective interests.

Rodan argues that consultative and particularist ideologies predominate in the Southeast Asian cases he studies. The former favours technocratic, seemingly apolitical problem-solving without political competition while the latter favours discrete communities’ or identities’ rights to specific representation. He also finds germane, though, democratic ideologies (those that facilitate challenges to inequalities inherent to a hierarchical order) and institutionally unbounded (and infirming) populist ideologies. By embedding their preferred ideological frame in institutions—MOPs—elites may fragment or delegitimate challengers and corral the scope of debate. While these ideologies of representation are not mutually exclusive, the “struggle over the permissible boundaries of political conflict” is central to what constitutes politics.

MOPs emerge from relationships within capitalism, developed over time. History matters—especially legacies of Cold War-era suppression of the left and its institutions. Also, the sites of participation under different modes shape the sort of inclusion they allow. On the menu are autonomous individualised political expression, extra-state civil societal expression, collective societal incorporation, and state-sponsored, individual administrative incorporation. This framework shifts our gaze from democratic elections or authoritarian coercion to, for instance, the extent to which civil society is organised and articulated with or independent of political parties, and the breadth of elite-challenging issues and alliances.

Rodan uses two broad initiatives or patterns from each of his three countries to illuminate distinct MOPs and tease apart how each regime functions. Singapore exemplifies societal and administration incorporation, driven by a largely consultative and particularist ideology of representation. Rodan homes in first on the explicitly nondemocratic Nominated Member of Parliament scheme, designed to pre-empt partisan parliamentary opposition by incorporating unaccountable and appointed representatives of sectors and under-represented social segments (who might otherwise find common purpose and/or drift toward opposition parties) for their apolitical expertise. He parses, too, a series of institutions and initiatives for soliciting individuals’ policy feedback, from elaborate ongoing mechanisms to periodic mass “conversations”—albeit with largely pre-set agendas and without necessary influence. This vision of incorporating feedback demonstrates, Rodan explains, a technocratic ideology of politics as the “noncompetitive technical exercise of solving problems”.

In the Philippines, state institutions and capacities serve the interests of oligarchs, who are challenged by opponents ranging from moderate social democrats to anti-capitalist revolutionaries, all with differing visions of democratic representation. Rodan’s first case, the party-list system for electing a share of members of Congress, encourages fragmentation of challengers (as by a three-seat-per-contender cap). The system has been co-opted by forces of traditional politics; it does more to contain than amplify threats to elite privilege.

Meanwhile, proponents of bottom-up budgeting, introduced in 2012, pressed hard-to-reconcile the goals of first, reforming undemocratic institutions via fortified civil societal organisations and second, problem-solving efficiency. That divide served to diminish its role even before Duterte nixed it altogether, and was exacerbated by the program’s ideologically consultative approach of incorporating stakeholders and expertise into cooperative deliberation on elite-defined policy problems.

Lastly, in Malaysia, we find the challenges of a deep-set and structurally reinforced particularist ideology, rendering any sustainable, shared alternative vision elusive. Rodan details how the deep permeation of that ideology has effectively scuttled periodic, carefully delimited initiatives for high-level economic policy consultation and transformation. Any real challenge to extant privilege, as well as critique of the integrity of state institutions, have been put beyond the pale. Last May’s electoral upset may have loosened strictures on the latter front, but to question racial privilege remains, for now, verboten. Over time, these initiatives have disabused many reformers otherwise willing to accept administrative incorporation of hopes of genuine influence. Overall, there are fewer consolidated state-sponsored, extra-parliamentary MOPs in Malaysia than in Singapore or the Philippines, even despite the launch, post-publication, of new consultative initiatives.

The more independent modes that have emerged in Malaysia also face hurdles. Efforts to coordinate within civil society, Rodan argues, as for restoration of local-government elections or broader electoral reform, had made headway even before the 2018 elections. This could be seen most notably in the at least minimal inclusion of nonpartisan local counsellors in opposition-controlled Penang and Selangor after 2008 and the wide-ranging, if more catch-all than coherent, Bersih coalition. But the vagaries of Malaysia’s political economy, as well as NGOs’ preference for prioritising liberal ideological notions of good governance and individual liberties rather than economic issues, intercede. Bersih, for instance, lacks “a socially redistributive reform agenda to address structural inequalities”, without which “UMNO’s particularist ideologies of race and ethnicity would remain seductive for many disadvantaged Malays”. The new government’s embrace of ethnic particularism as a core plank of its campaign strategy in 2018, he suggests, was an unsurprising result.

As Rodan illustrates, these three countries manifest different patterns of capitalist development, including the role of the state and parties, such that they may even adopt similar MOPs with different motives. In all, though, we see starkly the gap between participation and even discursive, or issue-based, representation. In all, we see the balance among and implications of different MOPs as encoding and reinforcing ideas about how power is organised and what it means to be represented—from being permitted to help hone pre-defined policies to being able to change policy agendas, and from participating qua individuals or officially sanctioned categories to seeing promise in and space for novel collective mobilisation. This all presses us to assess regimes less in terms of their institutional structures than per a deeper evaluation of whether those institutions serve more to consolidate elite control or empower outsiders—an issue less of whether the institutions “work” than of how they are designed, and in whose interests.

Rodan’s analysis throws down the gauntlet to scholars of regimes. He offers a trenchant, if polite, rejoinder to more superficial assessments, and ups the ante by concluding with sketches of how an MOP framework helps us to understand contemporary populist challenges or transitions to other institutional forms. He considers how an MOP framework may also assist in making sense of the permeation of depoliticising consultative and particularist ideologies in established democracies such as the UK. The agenda Rodan presents recommends a fundamentally different approach to understanding and classifying regimes—one which will surely call into question the status of most purported democracies by scrutinising how the policy/political process actually works. Illiberalism at home, and pro-market ideologies abroad, are putting pressure on Southeast Asian civil society organisations’ financial health.

Moreover, and in keeping with his intellectual roots, Rodan asks that we not pretend a distinction between politics and economics: it is the “dynamic societal conflicts” economic processes generate that produce political institutions. That said, the language of capitalism’s contradictions seems at times a bit forced. Presumably any other economic order would yield its own contradictions and its own similarly skewed MOPs. Still, given the near-hegemony of capitalism in Southeast Asia and globally, whether state- or market-led, Rodan’s critique of this particular structuring of production, wealth, and interests is understandable.

But it is not just scholarly observers, but domestic reformers, who may find Rodan’s analysis challenging. Rodan stops short of describing what MOPs would enable effective challenges to elites and their privileges—real democracy—or from what quarters we might expect such a push. Which interests understand themselves sufficiently as silenced that they seek another path, and how might institutions be remade (or opposition parties be induced) to engage with those perspectives and preferences more directly? There is an underlying assumption here of a politically neglected non- or anti-neoliberal core in all three states, not just the Philippines, ready to be mobilised.

One might ask, though—particularly given the now-protracted enervation of organised labour, plus mass investment in capitalism (for example, cross-class participation in stock markets), however manifestly inegalitarian—whether alternative ideologies are now more decrepit or discarded than actively suppressed. And are there positive examples operating alongside, and perhaps at cross-purposes to, these institutions: have these patterns of social conflict yielded also more progressive, perhaps even scalable, MOPs? Put differently, where do we go from here, beyond trudging resignedly toward an elitist, contention-stifling future? Uplifting this book is not —but Rodan’s provocative exegesis is not just a good read, but a call to rethink how we study as well as pursue participation, representation and elite-challenging reform.

Meredith L Weiss is Professor and Chair of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She has published widely on political mobilisation and contention, the politics of identity and development, and electoral politics in Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Malaysia and Singapore. Her books include Student Activism in Malaysia: Crucible, Mirror, Sideshow (Cornell SEAP, 2011), Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia (Stanford, 2006), the forthcoming The Roots of Resilience: Authoritarian Acculturation in Malaysia and Singapore (Cornell), and ten edited or co-edited volumes, most recently, Political Participation in Asia: Defining and Deploying Political Space (with Eva Hansson, Routledge, 2018) and The Political Logics of Anticorruption Efforts in Asia (with Cheng Chen, SUNY, forthcoming). She co-edits the Cambridge University Press Elements series on Southeast Asian Politics and Society. Current projects focus on “money politics” in Southeast Asia, urban governance in the region, and reform processes in post-GE14 Malaysia.

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Cambodia–On what basis will there be reconciliation?


April 1, 2019

Cambodia-On what basis will there be reconciliation?

by Thomas Fowler

https://www.khmertimeskh.com

A few days ago, former parliamentarians of the late CNRP launched a call for national reconciliation, mentioning in particular the very short episode of the culture of dialogue. We can only rejoice at this state of mind that seems to mimic the CPP’s opponents.

Above all, Cambodia needs a form of democracy that is based on a desire for dialogue and a spirit of conciliation. The democracy of confrontation, with its winners and losers, so dear to Westerners – even if it offers for the moment rather puzzling examples as in Europe – is absolutely not what Cambodia needs.

Although today a very large majority of its population did not experience the extreme horrors of the 70s, Cambodia still keeps track of the traumas suffered and a collective memory forever marked by this dramatic past. All specialists of mass crimes agree that the victims’ children are also not immune to the shocks suffered by their parents.

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The Cambodian human and social fabric is still fragile. The extraordinary erasure of knowledge inflicted by the men of Pol Pot, but also the propaganda of his movement that lasted until 1998 are not without consequences. The Cambodian population is a fertile ground for those who conceive politics as a call to passions, lies and radical behaviors. The conditions are in place to allow the demagogues to prosper and sow the seeds of division.

This is what we have known since the day Sam Rainsy began to poison the political life of this country. The only candidate, in 1993, to be blamed by UNTAC for his calls for racial hatred, he built his entire political career on the most hateful form of demagoguery – the one that made the success of a Hitler or a Le Pen in Europe both of whom designated a popular scapegoat for all the problems of the country.

Using ignorance of historical realities, neglecting no opportunity to falsify the past as the present, resorting to opposition to power that create a climate of civil war, insulting, slandering, Sam Rainsy is rapidly hysterical when it comes to political debate.

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Don’t BULLY US– We are a sovereign Nation

With the support of Westerners, at all times careless of Cambodian realities, he has had considerable financial means to prosper in his political adventure. After unsuccessfully igniting the streets of Phnom Penh in 2013, he deigned to accept the prime minister’s proposal to practice a culture of dialogue. He sabotaged it, once obtained a reform of the electoral law he wished.

Everyone knows what followed. Today, some of those who have supported Sam Rainsy’s hateful practices speak of national reconciliation and a culture of dialogue. Very well! If there is in the opposition, including the former CNRP, women and men of goodwill, all the better. We can only rejoice. But we must glean from a quarter of a century of lessons why the attempt to establish a peaceful democracy failed.

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What has been lacking in the Cambodian people and their political class since 1993 is a national consensus on a number of fundamental issues. The lack of unity of views on these issues has allowed demagogy to flourish. Cambodia offers the spectacle of a country that is not reconciled with itself on essential issues. This is the lesson of the past 25 years: a democracy cannot work if there is no agreement among all political sensitivities on a common denominator.

The Kingdom needs a national consensus on its past, on the territorial configuration of the country before and after colonization, on the reality of the March 18, 1970 coup, on all the crimes committed by Pol Pot’s gang, on the role of Vietnam in the liberation of the country, and on the true pacification of the country.

To question the borders resulting from colonisation is to deny not only the historical facts (Cambodia lost Kampuchea Krom before the arrival of the French and Koh Trâl because of the French), but also the international law and its principle of uti possidetis, however successfully invoked when it comes to the border with Thailand. This is the first essential consensus: to accept the borders of November 9, 1953, and to take into account the consequences of 30 years of war that require modest and balanced adjustments.

This is a historical fact: it was the 1970 coup that plunged the country into a civil, regional and international war in the end of which Polpotism triumphed. To recognize and accept this fact must help to turn the painful page of divisions between Cambodians who survived these events. It is a second constituent element of a necessary national consensus.

The Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot was the one who systematically organized the physical elimination of more than two million Khmers. Evidence has been gathered of the responsibility of this regime and its leaders for the innumerable crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated against the Cambodian people, between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979. To deny it, to attribute it to other than to the Pol potists, is to insult the victims and the survivors and to rewrite history. The third consensus that Cambodian democracy needs is to recognize that fanatical Khmer people blinded by a mortifying ideology have massacred their own people.

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The Pol potists launched in 1975 a war of aggression against the Vietnamese neighbor. For reasons of national security of its own and to answer the call for help from tens of thousands of Cambodians who fled to Vietnam, after failed negotiations during two and an half years followed by the rupture of diplomatic relations and the intensification of fighting, it ended Pol Pot’s regime by entering Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979.

Even though people may have a different opinion about what followed, there is no doubt that January 7, 1979 symbolizes the end of a regime of terror and massacres. Recognizing this fact is the fourth component of a necessary national consensus.

What followed was probably, for those who lived it, still too present to agree on a common appreciation and should therefore be restrained in political debates. As a fifth element of the common ground, it should not be difficult to unite all to recognize that the real pacification of the country took place at the end of December 1998.

And finally, to secure the future, an endorsement and commitment by all to give up the anti-democratic practices used by Sam Rainsy should be the sixth element of the political agreement sealing reconciliation.

How can national reconciliation and peaceful democracy be envisioned if those who govern and those who do not want a dialogue respecting mutual values do not agree on these six elements which constitute the historical and political heritage of Cambodia? Will the whole Cambodian political class have the wisdom to conclude a pact that recognizes these six elements of a national consensus and thus open a new era, looking to the future?

Thomas Fowler is a Cambodia watcher based in Phnom Penh.

The TOP Universities in CAMBODIA, 2019


March 31, 2019

The TOP Universities in CAMBODIA, 2019

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THE University of CAMBODIA, founded 15 years ago, is ranked NO.2 in 2019. We aspire to take the totem pole a few years forward. The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, established in 2014, the first public policy school of its kind in the Kingdom, bears the name of His  Excellency Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen–Din Merican

 

Linking BRI with Cambodia’s rectangular development


March 29, 2019

Linking BRI with Cambodia’s rectangular development

Khmer times:
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Beijing, capital of China, May 17, 2017. Xinhua/Rao Aimin

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious international cooperation and connectivity project initiated by China in 2013. Cambodia is one of the staunchest supporters of the initiative with the expectation that BRI will contribute to peace and shared prosperity. As a small and open economy, Cambodia is committed to building an open and inclusive international system.

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will take place in late April this year to further expand and deepen international collaborations and partnerships based on the spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, transparency, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning, mutual benefit and mutual respect by strengthening cooperation on the basis of extensive consultation and the rule of law, joint efforts, shared benefits and equal opportunities for all.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a big delegate consisting of deputy prime ministers, ministers and other senior leaders to attend the forum in Beijing. Cambodian leaders will also have a number of bilateral meetings with some key Chinese business leaders who are interested in investing in Cambodia. BRI is a key framework, or even a catalyst, to encourage and facilitate the investment inflow from China to the Kingdom.

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In the joint statement of the first forum, the leaders stressed of forging joint endeavour on BRI and urged to build synergy between BRI with other connectivity initiatives. From the Cambodian perspective, building synergy between BRI with the five-year development plan, called Rectangular Development Strategy, is the priority of bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and China.

The Rectangular Development Strategy Phase IV prioritises four pillars namely human resource development, economic diversification, private sector and job development, and inclusive and sustainable development. At the core of the four pillars is the acceleration of the governance reform, which refers to institutional reform and capacity building, strengthening accountability and integrity in the public administration, strengthening of work effectiveness, and strengthening of private sector governance.

Under the BRI cooperation framework, China should further align BRI with key development areas of Cambodia. So far, Chinese development assistance and investment projects concentrate on hard infrastructure and labour-intensive industry. Both countries need to expand their areas of cooperation to include human resource development, digital economy and sustainable development.

The Chinese companies and factories should build vocational training centres or schools to build and transfer skills to local workers. Due to lack of local skilled labour forces, most of Chinese companies choose to bring Chinese workers, which costs more than hiring local workers. Chinese companies should also provide on-the-job training to build the capacity of local workers in order to improve productivity. In this regards, Chinese companies can learn a great deal from Japanese companies in terms of skills development and knowledge transfer.

Digital economy is the future economic sector of Cambodia. The key challenges facing Cambodia to realise a full-fledged digital economy are the lack of human resources and digital infrastructure, and the lack of public and private investment in innovation and entrepreneurship. Mega Chinese private companies like Huawei and Alibaba could help Cambodia to build the necessary infrastructure and human capital to help the Kingdom fully harness digital economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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In terms of inclusive and sustainable development, China and Cambodia should work closely together to link BRI with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the National Sustainable Development Goals. Chinese investments need to further link with rural development and poverty reduction. Some investment projects relating to land grabbing, serious environmental degradation, and socio-economic exclusion need to be reviewed. Environmental and social impact assessment needs to be seriously conducted before deciding on investment or development projects.

The success of BRI depends very much on the quality of the projects and the perception and participation of the local community. Both countries still need to double their efforts to ensure that development projects under BRI really benefit the local people. People-centred development approach should be at the core of BRI and Cambodia-China partnership.

Suos Yara is Member of Parliament from Cambodia.

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The quintessential UN diplomat-DR. Benny Widyono

When career diplomat Benny Widyono died in his sleep in the United States on March 17, the world lost a beautiful bloke, a distinguished diplomat, a United Nations governor of Siem Reap Province and an Ambassador and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps as UN Ambassador to Cambodia.

Copyright © 2019 Khmer Times

 

Deepest concerns over EU withdrawal of EBA scheme


March 28,2019

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom launched the initial process to begin EBA withdrawal on October 4 last year. AFP

Dear Editor,

Both in my capacities as entrepreneur and as representative of the European business community in Cambodia I reiterate my attachment to European values and engagement to support Cambodia improve its human rights records.

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In this regard, jointly with human rights advocates and European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham)​ members, I want to voice once more my deepest concerns in respect to the process to withdraw preferences offered to Cambodia under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

Trade preference is granted to the country as a whole not to individual operators, and suspension should be employed the same way.

The use of trade as leverage to restore human rights raises an ethical question as to whether a negative impact on businesses, workers and their families who are not responsible for the situation leading to the adoption of sanctions is a legitimate means to pursue foreign policy objectives.

Many entrepreneurs like myself, locals and foreigners, have contributed to the progress of human rights by further enhancing economic growth and socio-economic development for people here in Cambodia.

Together we share growing concerns over hard-won gains that could be imperilled, and the condition of the Cambodian people worsened by depriving poor people of jobs and endangering their livelihoods.

A withdrawal of EBA could produce results that run counter to other rights, like the protection of vulnerable groups of people and the promotion of basic human rights embedded in the UN Charter and human rights treaties.

In terms of identities and perceptions, a withdrawal of EBA unnecessarily increases the confusion as to the notion of “human rights” in Asia where there is a need for universal values to be entrenched.

Deepening human suffering comes from the manner in which actors pursue their objectives.

A disregard for impoverished communities is understandably perceived as a worrying feature.

Economic sanctions challenge the basic sense of right and wrong and create ambiguity about human rights.

As seen in the local newspapers, a Cambodian analyst stated: “Those who are happy to see sanctions should be ashamed. They can be protagonists of human rights, they are in fact the enemy of humanity.”

Seen as harmful and unjust by affecting ordinary citizens, and driving innocents into poverty, I join openly the ones that demand a refrain from using such measures for human rights, unless the EU can provide sufficient, consistent and coherent guarantees for the protection of the political, economic, social and cultural rights of affected communities.

Shouldn’t economic sanctions be proportional and only used in the most extreme cases?

Researchers have estimated the probability of success of such measures by analysing data from past cases.

In general terms, all international sanctions combined, scholars demonstrate a low probability of success in reaching their goals: five, 22 or 30 per cent.

A high probability of failure: between 65-95 per cent of the time.

Looking at the nature of sanctions, as of today, withdrawals of the US GSP scheme and EBA have not recorded a single case of compliance.

When reinstatements have occurred, they have not been driven by the target’s compliance.The probability of success is reduced to zero.

Looking at the goal of sanctions, in this case the restoration of a democratic environment, sanctions designed for this purpose are significantly associated with higher levels of democracy.

They rarely manage to instantly create liberal democracies, but more commonly some form of electoral authoritarianism, increasing prospects for future democratisation.

However, authors warn “these findings should not be taken as evidence to justify all types of sanctions in all contexts […] There are several examples of highly unsuccessful democratic sanctions in the past”.

In general terms, international sanctions have a counterproductive effect on democracy.

There may be an increase of repression in an effort to stabilise the regime and they can create incentives for the leadership to restrict political liberties and consolidate power.

In addition, target elites might respond by changing their priorities to military spending in order to enhance their coercive capacity.

I urge the EU to carry out an impact assessment of any trade measures to be taken in response to human rights violations and balance any negative impact on the local population and affected workers against its possible effectiveness in Cambodia.

As human rights are the stated primary objective of the process of withdrawal of EBA, coherence and synergy within the EU institutions to negotiate with stakeholders in Cambodia should take place effectively.

There is a need to shift away from a focus on trade to a focus on benefits and achievements in human rights.

I regret that the decision and process are led by the Directorate General for Trade – an increased role of the directorate generals specialising in human rights and development would be more appropriate.

They should play the lead role to address the human rights situation and their expertise can ensure these issues remain the main concern.

I believe the EU’s expertise in human rights, and whose approach is to deliver results on the ground by integrating lessons learned, can contribute to attaining the objective of democratisation.

In the present situation, the process to review Cambodia’s duty-free access needs to be transparent and based on European values.

In line with the Trade Commissioner’s vision of trade as a force for good in the world, I recall any action to promote human rights cannot be justified if it has a negative impact on human rights.

The EU needs to consider as a priority the rights and well-being of ordinary citizens, with particular attention paid to the most vulnerable populations.

They should not be sacrificed.

As the final decision will depend upon the judgement of the EU and in the absence of an impartial and independent body to monitor the progress of dialogue between the EU and the Cambodian government, I urge the EU to define realistic expected results, monitor progress toward the achievement of expected results, integrate lessons learned and report on performance in all transparency. In addition, the EU should not leave itself open to accusations of double standards.

When the EU threatened Cambodia on its failure to meet human rights provisions, the bloc was in a process to conclude the “most ambitious agreement ever made with a developing country” – Vietnam.

According to the 2018 Democracy Index, Cambodia ranks 125th and Vietnam 139th. According to the 2018 press freedom index, Cambodia ranks 142nd and Vietnam 175th.

The use of double standards when it comes to democracy and human rights is counterproductive for the EU, for the credibility of its external action and, most importantly, for the very principles it promotes.

If suspension is not consistently applied, as a result the activation of the withdrawal procedure in Cambodia will be seen as subject to political and economic considerations.

The EU’s EBA offers unilateral trade preferences to Cambodia but the EU’s FTA with Vietnam removes or reduces customs tariffs in bilateral trade.

It is obvious that EU economic interests are part of the decision to refrain from imposing economic sanctions.

In the past, the EU has also been criticised for being at the forefront of the practice of linking commercial objectives with political interests through the use of conditionality clauses.

A misunderstanding of the motives of decision-making on conditionality clauses with regards to human rights would undermine the government’s awareness that Cambodia’s steps to improve rights will lead to a positive outcome.

Transparency is mandatory and I contest the use of selective conditionality and the application of double standards.

Questions of human rights need to be dealt with objectively, regardless of any economic or political gain.

In terms of democracy and political rights, in some cases, incentives can be more effective and preferable to sanctions.

As a long-timer actor of the private sector, I acknowledge the negative influence of trade on labour conditions and environmental preservation.

In this regard, a withdrawal of EBA is likely to translate into a deterioration of labour conditions and may unfairly penalise workers, including those employed in European businesses in Cambodia.

Instead, to prevent and remedy against negative impacts of trade on human and labour rights, the EU should conduct a human rights impact assessment before granting trade preferences to a candidate country and during its implementation.

These assessments should be undertaken by independent experts, in consultation with civil society, including with representatives of communities affected by trade preferences.

Arnaud Darc,CEO of Thalias Hospitality Group, Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Hun Sen addresses ousting of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970


March 23,2019

Hun Sen addresses ousting of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970

by Ben Sokhean.www.khmer times.com

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said that it was Khmer Republic President Marshal Lon Nol and his allies that ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970.

During the height of the US’ war in Vietnam, members of the National Assembly voted to remove Prince Sihanouk from power as he was in Moscow, forcing him to create a government in exile in Beijing. They then appointed Marshal Lon Nol as President of the Khmer Republic.

Mr Hun Sen yesterday during a graduation ceremony said the ousting of Prince Sihanouk was a result of Cambodian leaders colluding with foreigners, referring to the United States.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen says Lon Nol conspired to oust Prince Sihanouk.

“Even though there was a push from foreigners in 1970, had Lon Nol, Sisowath Sirik Matak […] not conspired to push for war and a takeover, the coup would not have occurred,” he said. “Whether the coup would succeed or not depended on internal factors.”

Lon Rith, son of Marshal Nol, on Wednesday during a Cross-Talk discussion with Khmer Times said the removal of Prince Sihanouk was a National Assembly decision.

“It was not [my father’s] decision, it was the decision of the National Assembly and the Cambodian people,” Mr Rith said. “They were no longer confident in Prince Sihanouk.”

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The US embassy in Phnom Penh has denied ever being involved in a coup in Cambodia and accused China of supporting Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

The Chinese embassy responded by accusing the CIA of being involved in the removal of Prince Sihanouk from power.

Paul Chambers, lecturer at Naresuan University’s College of Asean Community Studies, yesterday said the CIA was very much involved in the ousting of Prince Sihanouk.

“The National Assembly voted to depose Sihanouk, allowing Lon Nol to assume power, but this was a mere post-facto formality,” Mr Chambers said, adding that Marshal Nol worked with Prince Sirik Matak to arrest Prince Sihanouk’s in-law, Oum Mannorine, on “trumped up charges”.

“With Oum Mannorine arrested, Lon Nol and Sirik Matak could control the armed forces,” he said. “Ultimately, blame for the coup falls on the feet of the US Central Intelligence Agency which had been plotting for years the overthrow or assassination of Sihanouk. The CIA code name for the 1970 coup operation in Cambodia was ‘Operation Sunshine Park’.”

Ou Chanrath, a former opposition party lawmaker, yesterday said regardless of who was behind the ousting of the prince, the Kingdom has yet to form a national consensus on the matter.

“It is a historic issue, we cannot say who is right or who is wrong,” Mr Chanrath said. “We are not clear whether the US was really behind the coup, but they did strongly support Lon Nol’s government later.”

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