Thursday, December 05, 2013

After Reform Promise, a Return to Statecraft as Usual

By Alex Willemyns and Mech Dara
The Cambodia Daily, December 5, 2013

In an epic, six-hour address in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for the government’s many “problems” and promised a more reformist government over the next five years of his rule.

Targeting corruption, deforestation and the lack of transparency across government sectors, the prime minister made clear that the CPP’s continued grip on power would depend on whether his ruling party could commit to stamping out its shortcomings amid a resurgent political opposition.

–News Analysis

“First, you need to use a mirror to look at yourself. Second, you have to take a bath to clean your body,” Mr. Hun Sen said, offering a four-step solution for his ministers to metaphorically rid themselves of whatever stains they may have accumulated.
“Third, you have to scrub your body while bathing if it is plagued by dirty things. Fourth, you have to heal your disease,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Ministers, he continued, would be forced to stand in front of “many mirrors” in the form of public forums for criticism, meetings with civil society and mandatory appearances before Parliament.

“If this can’t be done by all of you,” Mr. Hun Sen warned, “I can’t wait to die with all of you.”

But, in the months that have followed since Mr. Hun Sen’s dramatic self-criticism speech, there is little indication of a new reformist tendency emerging from his party in the aftermath of its worst election results in 20 years.

The list of poor governance complaints against the government runs impressively long: the shooting deaths of civilians by police officers at two protests, the continued impunity enjoyed by the trigger-happy former governor of Bavet City, Chhouk Bundith, the hastened destruction of Ratanakkiri’s protected forests by illegal loggers, revelations that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donor aid money was pocketed by officials at the Ministry of Health and, most recently, the European Community’s sanctioning of Cambodia because the government sold the national ship registry to a private company that has issued national flags to foreign ships that have plundered the high seas.

In his speech in September, and in the five-year policy platform released by the CPP the same week, Mr. Hun Sen also promised again to root out and crush corruption in the name of prolonging the CPP’s hold on government.

On that front, there have been some modest developments: The government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) last week announced the arrest of a tax collector from Sihanoukville found to have been overcharging for taxes, as well as two staff from the state electricity provider in Mondolkiri province caught pilfering electricity bill money.

However, the detailed report by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which revealed that corruption among health officials had compromised some $12 million in grants to the country, was met with statements exonerating the ministry and its officials of any wrongdoing—even if they had pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars for fixing government bids.

The ACU has not yet investigated the Global Fund report.

Mr. Hun Sen also promised a renewed push against deforestation in his September speech.

The CPP will in this mandate break with decades of sanctioned pillaging of forest by “maintaining forest cover by strengthening forest protection, by way of tighter enforcement of the Law on Forestry [and] the suppression of forest offenses,” the CPP’s reform policy document stated also.

Yet, in recent months, human rights groups and international natural resource monitoring groups have reported a renewed push by illegal loggers, particularly after the July election, to further deforest Ratanakkiri province.

CPP Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday that, despite the litany of abuses since the July election, Mr. Hun Sen’s promises of a more liberal CPP government have not been abandoned. (Mr. Siphan on Monday personally sent a newspaper article from the opposition-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer to the Military Court for official investigation because it contained a story alleging the military had helped the CPP steal the July 28 election.)

“Reform is about changing people’s minds like electronics and computers,” Mr. Siphan said of his party’s reform promises.

“We have to educate people to change their mindsets to come together. In the two month period of this two-month-old reform government, the government has been educating people to reform people,” he said.

“The prime minister himself has said to government officials that if you do not change your mindset, you will be punished,” he added.

“So whoever in the public who knows about corruption, please come forward.”

Yet, this is not the first time in the CPP’s recent history that Mr. Hun Sen has made promises for reform before returning to ingrained habits of ruling-party statecraft.

In a push for mass environmental reform in January 1999, a month after convincing the weakened Funcinpec party to support the CPP for a new term in government, Mr. Hun Sen directed the then-newly named military commander-in-chief, General Ke Kim Yan, to end illegal logging “within three months, at the longest.”

The next month, Mr. Hun Sen reiterated that he had taken “a personal interest” in stopping illegal logging, and was “charging all my ministers and military officials to pay maximum attention,” to stop deforestation in the country.

Later that month, then-Environment Minister Mok Mareth announced the scrapping of a sub-decree to create a national committee to monitor unregulated logging.

“We proposed to pass the sub-decree but the Prime Minister said it wasn’t so serious and left the Ministry of Environment to do its work,” Mr. Mareth said in February 1999.

Two years later, in 2001, Mr. Hun Sen pressed on with promises to end deforestation, saying that losing vast tracts of the country’s forests had been his “biggest mistake” of the 1990s.

“I will not make that mistake again,” he vowed.

The plan to end illegal logging was an apparent success, with Mr. Hun Sen declaring to a meeting of Asean environment ministers in Phnom Penh that year that logging in the country had been “eliminated” in the first two years of the CPP’s second term in office.

“Corruption and illegal activities in the forestry sector were eliminated with the implementation of rigorous measures and the full support of [the army], the police [and] the authorities,” he said, crediting the implementation of a “strengthened forest crime monitoring mechanism.”

But, seven months later, Mr. Hun Sen acknowledged continued problems with firms illegally logging, placing a temporary moratorium on all logging concessions.

He again made the promise to stop deforestation.

“If the logging companies do not abide by the order, we will remove their license,” he said at the opening of a road project in Kampot province in December 2001.

“If you dare to [disobey the order] and if I do not then remove your forest concession and close your factory,” he warned concessionaires, “I will cut my own head off.”

According to the study published by the scholarly journal “Science” last month, Cambodia lost nearly 12,600 square km of forest between 2000 and 2012, and gained only 1,100 square km of new forest in return, a net loss of 7.1 percent of the country’s forests.

The study said that only Malaysia, Indonesia, Paraguay and Guatemala had higher rates of deforestation over the 12-year period.

In October last year, Chinese import documents revealed that some 36,000 cubic meters of logs under the “rosewood” category have been recorded entering China from Cambodia between January 2007 and August 2012. Under Cambodia’s Forestry Law, the logging of rosewood is strictly prohibited. Searches for “rosewood” on the Chinese trading website Alibaba revealed agents in Cambodia openly offering to sell the wood to China for prices as high as $35,000 per cubic meter.

Dramatic promises to stamp out corruption also have a storied history.

Mr. Hun Sen, acknowledging failings in good governance during the first electoral mandate between 1993 and 1997, which ended with forces loyal to Mr. Hun Sen defeating forces loyal to then First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh in street battles in Phnom Penh, promised a fresh start at the start of his second term in 1998.

“Respect for human rights and development—aiming to oppose, weaken and completely end abuses of power and violations of law—will make the law truly the defender of the weak,” Mr. Hun Sen told lawmakers at the National Assembly before the formation of his new government in November 1998.

“If in two years we cannot succeed in any reforms, I will resign as prime minister,” Mr. Hun Sen pledged two months later, in a plea for the return of aid money from foreign donors.

“Before I step down as prime minister, I will sack all those who are corrupt,” he said.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index released Tuesday, Cambodia presently ranks a lowly 160 among the 175 listed countries, behind Zimbabwe but slightly ahead of Equatorial Guinea.

The history of such failed but continued promises for reform from Mr. Hun Sen are not surprising, said Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.

Mr. Thayer said that Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP are well versed in the value of occasional cathartic self-criticism sessions for the survival of authoritarian parties.

Such sessions, however, tend to devolve into the “perfunctory,” with the party simply going through the motions of critique in times of pain for the party, Mr. Thayer said.

“Hun Sen’s promises of eradicating corruption and carrying out reforms are no more than the default position for a party official well versed in the gamesmanship of offering self-criticism in the expectation that there will be no real change,” Mr. Thayer said.


Anonymous said...

Who are you kidding Mr Sen Hun? Even a cow would not believe what you say, let alone Khmer people! they know a promise on your part is a lie! they can see you are lying through your teeth every time you open your stinking mouth to utter your so-called reform promises.

Anonymous said...

ឣត់បានការ។ ឣាឆ្កែកន្ទុយខ្វៀន នៅតែខ្វៀន។

Anonymous said...

Promise..promise..and promise....CPP is facing uncertainty in the next 5 years!

Anonymous said...

Is he a Prime Minister of a country?

NO! He is a country salesman.

What's reform?

It is a reform technique to sell more what Cambodia still has.

Neang SA

Anonymous said...

Khmer people are now refusing to be victimize by Hun Sen political maneuvers.

They are smarter than hun sen

Anonymous said...

Ah Dombol Yor Hun Sen,

People are so sick to see your traitorous face.
Sihanouk just called and told one of your bodyguards that Yummareach wanted you to be his (Sihanouk) roommate in December 2013 or early 2014 whether you like it or not.

Anonymous said...

don't they know cambodia has a mind of its own? shameful to be ignorant like this! what make people think sam rainsy can do a better job than hun sen, etc? i mean what makes people think sam rainsy is easily colonized or control than say hen sen? shame!

cambodia is cambodia and will always be cambodia, so stop dreaming already!

Anonymous said...

He has no power, the real power is somebody else. No body listens to him. He is useless. People know he is not independent, controlling by the people around him and foreigners.

Anonymous said...

Why do we let Cham Jendhamuni taking over KI-Media? Why? Please answer me!!! She is so stupid. She does not know anything about politic. She said that many times. So why many readers support her??? Only Christian can save Cambodia, not Jendhamuni!!!!

Anonymous said...

To 12:14PM

Please leave God out of politic! God can not help you unless you help yourself first! You think you can do better Jendhamuni and why don't you? Stop complaining and bitching!

Thanking Jendhamuni for bringing the enjoyment to the people!

Anonymous said...

AH HUN SEN Vietcong slave is a fucken preacher. For the past 30 years since 1979 AH HUN SEN is destroying Cambodia in order to save Cambodia! This is the most stupid logic! In term of AH HUN SEN achievement for Cambodia in comparing with the neighboring countries and Cambodia remain death last in everything! The most backward and the most corrupted country in Southeast Asia! Majority of dirt poor Cambodian people still risk their life to find work in Thailand and some work in menial and dead-end job in garment factories and some dirt poor Cambodian are shipped out to work as house maid and who know what!

Don't be fooled by those high rise building constructions, the villa, or whatever! There is no sewage system in most of Cambodia! Majority of Cambodian still use outdoor for toilet!

AH HUN SEN Vietcong slave learned from the Vietcong to lie in a straight face to make people believe in him...But what he didn't know that the more he lies and he has to lie some more to cover his previous lie and soon he believe in his own lie! AH HUN SEN is such a bastard! And the end it is dirt poor Cambodian people who pay price for his lying and his mistakes!

If for the past 30 years, AH HUN SEN didn't achieve anything for Cambodia and the next 5 years of empty promise will be the same! Don't expect too much from AH HUN SEN Vietcong slave because Angkor Wat still control by the Vietcong military commander named Sok Kong! The 99 years land concession to the Vietcong government and the Chinese will not change! As long as the money flow in top support his government and it will business as usual!

Nobody believe in a liar twice!

Anonymous said...

AH HUN SEN Vietcong slave has too many obligations to the Vietcong government and the Chinese government and it would be very hard to change anything! The only way to change is to remove AH HUN SEN from power permanently!

Anonymous said...

Ah Hun sen Ah kbatcheat prachea reas leng trey ka ah eng hoey ah eng kbatcheat ah eng trev te slap Doy vetanear

Anonymous said...

Ah Hun sen Ah kbatcheat prachea reas leng trey ka ah eng hoey ah eng kbatcheat ah eng trev te slap Doy vetanear

Anonymous said...

Hun sen va changer une nouvelle tactique pour donner l avantage à la politique de ho chiminh de supprimer le cambodge et la nation khmère que youn a déjà prevu depuis très long temps.
Maintenant les khmers n ont plus le choix qu une solidarité solide en tant que la nation khmère, contre l'occupation youn sure la territoire national, et surtout il faut revendiquer notre îles et la territoire khmère que hun sen a donné au youn,selon un accord entre cpp et youn dans les années de 80.

Anonymous said...

11:37 AM #1 CAMBODIAN REALTOR OF THE YEAR 2013! He has 30 years of experience and expertise.











Anonymous said...

hun sen has his own true disease-
wealth and power addiction and also sex addition. let's ask only two questions:
1- how much wealth do hun sen's family have and where it comes from ?
2- how much destruction has been made to Cambodia by Hun Sen power addiction ? Cambodia political crisis solution is to rid of rotten Hun SEn and his crony, period.

Son of Farmer said...

Only Hun Xen's promise is evidently true, his head is on the ground?

Otherwise his repeating million promises are just the empty air in the sky!

Anonymous said...

As long as HUN SEN will not the power, Cambodia will be controlled by Vietnamese and if all Cambodia wish to have right, freedom, justice, democracy and good living in the future, all Cambodian must stand up to overthrow HUN SEN form the power now otherwise Cambodian will suffer for the rest of Cambodian life