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Op-ed : Cambodia in Lao Tzu words

By Kok Sap , 29 August 2012

Before next election in Cambodia, let us look at Lao Tzu words from centuries ago. His words reflect the state of Cambodia and its people. His words proved in human history of men in power did not change much in behavior and ways of ruling. He had said these words long before but the wisdom remained true to the new millennium mind.

Lao Tzu”, why are the people starving? Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes, therefore the people are starving.”

The state tax collection becomes the official private bank accounts for him and cronies, although he never publicly admitted that he was the wealthiest in Cambodia. After UNTAC left in 1993, PM Hun Sen has been the sole power holder and absolute dictator in all aspects of the government conducts. Under his rule, patron-client is the law.

True in Cambodia today, majority of population barely live off ($0.25-0.35 per day) while a handful of ministers, generals live in large mansions and cruise around town in pricey big luxurious cars at the gasoline price rampantly inflated to nearly $2.00 per litre.

Daily thousands exited own homes and headed out to neighboring countries either to beg or to slave in domestic jobs for the minimal pay per day to raise family back in Cambodia. These hungry folks had no confidence in their country and current government. Wives and children were left behind to live off a patch of land that there is no guaranty in permanent ownership. They try to live during the day on the least they can afford then at night they go to bed hungry.

For the poor there is no telling in the next day that their land isn’t taken away by the authority. They worry around the clock how to survive while the ministers or generals’ wives and children worry how to control their obesity- high cholesterol and what lavish dishes to eat for breakfast.

Nepotism and autocracy is the theme of the future. Every important ministry is occupied by his favorite client and crony. Worst not only his ministers whose power seemed permanent and unquestionable by the voters’ representatives but the wives were put above laws and out of the legislative members’ scrutiny. His Ministers children and wives can work for the spouse and father. For an obvious example all can check Hor Nam Hong and Cham Prasidh ministry for verification.

Not only that it shows how incapable he is to bring justice to the people but PM remains fearful and worships Democratic Kampuchea ex- cadres and suspects in political killings. All of his favorite governmental officials become untouchable and are inviolatable by his anti corruption laws. All his ministers are rich and powerful. In every level, bribery is the norm and a must to buy ways in government offices to get thing done, no matter how important or small.

So what must Cambodia do to stop the starvation?

Lao Tzu,” why are the people rebellious? Because the rulers interfere too much, therefore the people are rebellious.”

The state owned properties and land were sold off to private investors for by his ministers and department heads for personal profits. In this, late Hok Lundi was the notorious anarchist who put fears in Hun Sen heart. Hun Sen did nothing to stop Hok Lundi in fear of retaliation.

Hok Lundi sold land belonged to National Police Quarter for millions of dollar without conferring the Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who Hun Sen holds grudges against as his potential replacement. But because of Sar Kheng relations with Chea Sim who is the patron of CPP, Hun Sen let it go for now.

When Heng Pov rebelled against Hok Lundi in misusing police authority and power as a mean to become rich, PM Hun Sen spent state fund to bribe Malaysian police to deliver Heng Pov who exposed Hok Lundi as a perpetrator behind all the killing Chea Vichea, Pisith Pilika, Ho Sok, and demonstrators who rebelled against government suppression.

Other hand PM Hun Sen relatives and cronies were safe and well guarded while involving in illegal land grab, illegal logging, drug trafficking and forced eviction every day. People came from all corners of the country, en mass, to ask for his intervention but all were ignored and returned home with more threats put out by his government.

Never failed and predictably PM turned his blind eye to his ministers who sold state owned land to foreign investors for own profits. Even the subordinates complained and sought his intervention but Hun Sen did the opposite in making sure nothing happened to his favorite friends or the robber barons called generals.

How many activists were put to death and Hun Sen had his agents find and arrest the killers like in Chea Vichea and recently Chut Vutthy case?

His intimate friends Mon Rithy, Theng Bunma, Ly Yong Phat, Koh Pich owner, Sok Kong (Yuon), Yeay (Yuon) Phu and husband are involved in illegal land grabbing but PM ado nothing about it. The riches private security guards bear more authority than the armed forces ‘shoot to kill’ anyone who dared to challenge their bosses’  interests.

Daily the foreign owned and operated factory owners abuse laborers with insanitary work environment and conditioned long hours for a marginal pay. Too much to endure the laborers strike and protest for reasonable pay and safe work environment but the government forbid them from doing so. Government neglects its duty to serve and protect citizens from abuses and enslavement in exchange for bribery.

So what must Cambodia do to stop such destructive force?

In his book published in 1687 Isaac Newton said, “Unless acted upon by a net unbalanced force, an object will maintain a constant velocity.”This is called inertia law.

That was true in Middle East, how the Arab Spring uprising was happening and unseating one dictator at a time. The unbalanced forces that were of the citizens will that had removed dictator in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya from power permanently. Next one is Syria, President Assad. At time of writing, he is still the absolutist leader and is playing the Russian roulette.

But for Cambodia people they do not need to go all out in that extreme. We needed no violence to undo the wrong. We, people, already have that unbalanced force per the Constitution. We have stronger force than Hun Sen and his ministers combined. Our force is bigger than the poor paid armed forces under those corruptive generals control.

The power of secret ballot is too profound and important of a determinant force to effect the change in ours and our children lives. Here is our old Khmer saying’ អូសទូកកុំឲ្យល្អានចាប់ ត្រីបានកុំ ឲ្យល្អក់ទឹក’ that goes in hands with the Western saying, “those who hold effective power in a system or situation, a plan vetoed by the powers that be.”

Remember, our fellow compatriots who had voted for the ruling party led by PM Hun Sen had not had better lives than those who didn’t.

So with Lao Tzu words to close, “why do the people think so little of death? Because the rulers demand too much of life, therefore the people take death lightly. In having a little to live on, people know better than to value life too much.”

Hun Sen demands too much of our patience and tolerance for the last decades. But no more we give. So let us all be ‘the powers that be’.

Let us all march with enthusiasm to the voting places and not to waste our vote on the corruptive Ruler favor again. To exchange your vote for the scraps and crumbs from the Ruler party is to hurt yourself and family for the next five years.

In July 2013 election is the doable chance to change for the betterment of the Cambodia and its people. Let us all vote our conscience for our own good. Let all voters put the corruptive practices during election time to an end from cheating once and for all.

To change regime in Cambodia now is simpler than in the past. Thus we need neither weapon nor violence to change it but the very peaceful voting process under the keen eyes of international observers. Every eligible and registered voter must make an effort, no matter what, to vote with conscience not stomach.

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Written by Kham

28/08/2012 at 11:55 am

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