Why did Japan keep assisting NEC?

Op-Ed: CSIS

By Sek Sophal

After a series of crackdowns by the Cambodian government on independent media, civil society organizations, and a main opposition party in late 2017, Western countries swiftly responded by imposing visa restrictions on Cambodia’s high-ranking officials and terminating development aid. However, Japan, as a treaty ally of the US and a democratic country sharing the values of freedom and human rights, has neither terminated its Official Development Aid (ODA) to Cambodia, nor cut its technical and financial assistance for the National Committee for Election (NEC).

Camboda NECSpeaking to the Voice of America on Dec. 22, 2017, Japan’s Ambassador to Cambodia Hidehisa Horinouchi argued that assuring the opportunity for the people of Cambodia to express their political will and strengthening the credibility of the election process were Japan’s motivations to keep assisting the NEC. But Japan’s decision to remain engaged with a troublesome NEC goes beyond transparency of the election to a long-term strategic end to shape Cambodian politics amid growing competition with China for influence.
Cambodia has become an important destination for Japan’s investment, given its supply of low-cost labor, the potential for stable economic growth (averaging 7 percent for the last two decades), and the increased purchasing power of Cambodian people. The growing significance of bilateral diplomatic relations was evident when Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and Prime Minister Hun Sen upgraded diplomatic relations to a “strategic partnership” in 2013. Since then, the number of Japanese companies investing in Cambodia has rapidly increased. According to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), there were just 19 Japanese companies in Cambodia in 2010. By 2015, the number had jumped to 250, making Japan the third largest foreign investor in the country.

Cambodia’s geography plays a crucial role in Japanese thinking: physical infrastructure in Cambodia links Japan’s industrial bases in Thailand and Vietnam. Japan’s East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), which was initiated in 1998 and became operational in late 2006, relies not only on human and financial capital and industrial bases in newly industrialized countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, but also on connections of physical infrastructure in mainland Southeast Asian countries. Although Cambodia was not included in the EWEC at the beginning, political instability and natural disasters in Thailand during the past decade elevated the role of Cambodia in minimizing trade and investment risks and increasing resilience of the supply chain. Massive floods in Thailand in 2011 taught Japan a bitter lesson. According to the World Bank, estimated losses were no less than $4 billion, of which Japan’s investment, particularly in the automobile industries, accounted for a considerable share.

Over-reliance on Thailand is proving to be a dangerous strategy. Oizumi Keichiro, an economist at the Japan Research Institute, notes that “80 percent of investment approvals granted to Japanese business by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) relate to investments in Bangkok and the eight surrounding provinces” and all of them are prone to annual flooding. To cope with this growing challenge, the Thailand-Plus-One business model was initiated in 2013 not only to minimize investment risks, but also to increase Japanese competitiveness in both the regional and global supply chain. In this model, Japanese companies are advised to move labor-intensive production to one of Thailand’s neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, while Thailand plays a role as hub of Japan’s investment and production clustering. In this strategy, Japan depends on Cambodia to supply low-cost labor and facilitate its supply chain through the country’s road network and scores of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which were largely developed and funded by Japan’s ODA and Japanese firms.

The Thailand-Plus-One strategy facilitates Japan’s EWEC and offers Cambodia great economic opportunities. Japan can expand its economic power to slow China’s growing influence in Cambodia. Although trade volume between Japan and Cambodia is far smaller than that between China and Cambodia, Japan can at least prevent China from dominating and monopolizing the Cambodian market as it did in Myanmar. Japan is optimistic that the economic opportunities facilitate stronger and deeper engagement to shape Cambodia’s politics.

Direct engagement with the NEC is strategically important for Japan’s foreign policy. Japan’s ODA wins the hearts of Cambodian people, but not those of Cambodian politicians from the ruling party. Its ODA is vital for Cambodia’s development, but less effective to challenge China’s growing influence in Cambodia. Helping the NEC, a national institution with a notorious history of alleged fraud and election manipulation, is a strategy of choice for Japan to remain a key player to engage, monitor, and if necessary put Cambodia’s election on the path of democracy.

Continue reading Why did Japan keep assisting NEC?

Present Cambodia’s Conundrum and Its Foreseeable Future

Op-Ed: Cambodia Leadership Skills

Preamble:

This upcoming election of Senate in February 25, 2018 and national election in July 29, 2018 are very questionable on its legitimacy as the key voters of largest opposition party CNRP (tantalizing of 5007 councillors) have been redistributed to other parties especially to the government-led party CPP and the dissolution as well as the banning of 118 core members of the CNRP. The excuse of law ratifying to redistributing seats (both law-makers in the parliament and the lower governance apparatus commune-Sangkat councillors) has been outraged by both the providence of such law amending and nationwide errs. More than that, the international community has ever come to shoulder to respond to this systemic crackdown on the state of democracy and human rights brokering since the first election in 1993 sponsored by the UNTAC.

The strength on his political manoeuvring of Prime Minister Hun Sen through the backing of China and the resistance to reinstating back to the original course from both Cambodian nationals and international community are likely not in equilibrium. Thus, pragmatists see that this imbalance will lead to an uncontested solution.

The Hun Sen’s Strength:

Cambodia Conundrum 1Cambodia Conundrum 2Cambodia Conundrum 3Cambodia Conundrum 6Cambodia Conundrum 7Prime Minister Hun Sen has been known for his relentless and successful manoeuvring the tactic of “divide and conquer” on his several political contenders. With the increasing of votes towards the opposition CNRP in both national election 2013 and commune-Sangkat election in 2017, the preparedness and implementation on the dissolution of this largest opposition party has been undertaken. There were no doubts on the amendments by single party (CPP) on several laws such as NGOs laws (LANGO), law of labours unions, law of the press and media (sic), and three times adjustment of the law on political party etc.  Mixing his repeated warnings on war if he lost the election to these efforts on law amendments to sideline his opponent is a concerted effort to substantiate the facade of democracy in Cambodia.

With current state of international competitiveness, China publicly announced its support of the dissolution of the CNRP as well as other jailing and threats on the opposition members. The narrative of colour revolution has been made and publicized at large to apply the course of jailing Kem Sokha, president of the CNRP, and the judgement of the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP with the conviction of colour revolution to topple a legitimate government.

In hand, Hun Sen has comforted his zone through high ranking positioning of arm-force from his children, to relatives, and to closest loyalists, on key responsibility such as the bodyguard units, the intelligent police, the national police, the military police, and the army. The coffer’s pockets are full of loyal Oknha (entitlement of Lord to cementing patronage beaurocrats of oligarchy) and the key position of treasurers (money’s controllers) of his trust. The governance system of spreading his loyalists to key positions such as the Royal Palace, the Assembly, the Senate, and the Judiciary, the state’s human rights body, the state’s anti-corruption unit, etc., is tangible.

The Convincible Strength: 

The dissolution of the CNRP and the redistributing all those seats is comfortably with no distress of reprisal is known as the physical “winning” of the battle while the destruction and violation on the rule of law as well as the disrespectful to the half-nationwide-population voice of the Cambodian people is the moral “defeating” of the war. The domestic outcry of the people levelling at the state of silence is one of the testimonies of their political maturity. They are silently ready to exercise their voice through secrete ballots. The international community representing over 70% of the earth surface has come out with concrete actions and action-plans to respond to Hun Sen’s manoeuvring.

Continue reading Present Cambodia’s Conundrum and Its Foreseeable Future

សេចក្តីថ្លែងការណ៍ប្រារព្ធថ្ងៃទិវាសិទ្ធិមនុស្សអន្តរជាតិ១០ធ្នូ

សេចក្តីថ្លែងការណ៍

ប្រារព្ធថ្ងៃទិវាសិទ្ធិមនុស្សអន្តរជាតិ១០ធ្នូ

សូមគោរពបងប្អូនជនរួមជាតិទាំងអស់ជាទីស្នេហា!

Public Statement on the International Human Rights Day 10 Dec 2017          ថ្ងៃនេះជាទិវាសិទ្ធិមនុស្សអន្តរជាតិ១០ឆ្នូ នាងខ្ញុំតាងនាមគណកម្មាធិការដើម្បីសិទ្ធិបោះឆ្នោត របស់ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរនៅក្រៅប្រទេសឬដឺស៊ីរ៉ក់ មានកិត្តិយសនិងសូមកោតសរសើរដល់ការលៈបង់និង ការស្រឡាញ់ ជាតិមាតុភូមិរបស់បងប្អូនទាំងអស់ដែលមានវត្តមាននៅថ្ងៃនេះ។

យើងទាំងអស់គ្នាមានជំនឿជាធ្លុងមួយថា ដរាបណាប្រទេសកម្ពុជាគ្មានលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ គ្មាននីតិរដ្ឋ គ្មានការគោរពសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស ដូចដែលយើងឃើញការវិវត្តន៍ចុងក្រោយក្រោមការដឹកនាំរបស់ លោកហ៊ុន-សែន ដរាបនោះកម្ពុជាគ្មានទេសន្តិភាពពិតប្រាកដ គ្មានទេការអភិវឌ្ឍន៍ពិតប្រាកដ គ្មានទេ អធិបតេយ្យជាតិពិតប្រាកដ គ្មានទេយុត្តិធម៌ និងគ្មានទេសាមគ្គីជាតិជាធ្លុងមួយពិតប្រាកដ។

យើងត្រូវការការបោះឆ្នោតមួយដែលមានន័យពិតប្រាកដ ដែលយើងអាចទទួលយកបានទាំង អស់គ្នា។ ការរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ ការយកកៅអីសភានិងសមាជិកក្រុមប្រឹក្សាឃុំ-សង្កាត់ របស់គណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិទៅចែកអោយបក្សផ្សេង គឺស្មើនឹងការជាន់ឈ្លីប្រជាពលរដ្ឋអ្នកបោះឆ្នោត ជិតកន្លះប្រទេស ជាការរំលោភលើរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញកម្ពុជា និងជាការរំលោភលើកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុង ប៉ារីស២៣ តុលា ឆ្នាំ១៩៩១។ ការបោះឆ្នោតព្រឹទ្ធិសភាថ្ងៃទី២៥ ខែកុម្ភៈ ឆ្នាំ២០១៨និងការបោះឆ្នោត ជាតិថ្ងៃទី ២៩ ខែកក្កដា ឆ្នាំ២០១៨ ខាងមុខត្រូវតែមានគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិចូលរួមទើបសហគម ជាតិនិងអន្តរជាតិទទួលស្គាល់ថាស្របច្បាប់និងយកជាការបាន។

យើងខ្ញុំដែលជាប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែររស់នៅនាយសមុទ្រទាំងអស់ដែលមានចំនួនដល់ទៅ៣លាននាក់នៅតែទាមទារសិទ្ធិបោះឆ្នោតដូចមានចែងក្នុងរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញនិងសេចក្តីថ្លែងការណ៍ជាសាកលស្តីអំពី សិទ្ធិមនុស្សរបស់អង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិ អោយខាងតែបាន។

ជយោ លទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងនីតិរដ្ឋនៅកម្ពុជា!

ជយោ ស្មារតីនៃកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីសអមតៈ!

ជយោ កំឡាំងសាមគ្គីរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរនៅក្រៅប្រទេស-ក្នុងប្រទេសទាំងអស់!

ថ្ងៃទី១០ ខែធ្នូ ឆ្នាំ២០១៧

Public Statement on the International Human Rights Day of 10 Dec 2017

Press Release for the World Human Rights Day Mass Rally in DC

The dissolution of CNRP has come amid political paranoid of Mr. Hun Sen to the feasible chance of losing power in the election of Senate in February 25, 2018 and the National Election in July 29, 2018.

jointc_1

Petition Collection and Sent out to Recipients on the 23rd of October 2017

petition update signaturesOne million signatures to restore the Paris Peace Agreement for Cambodia during this 26th Anniversary

Attention to:

1. Mr. António Guterres,
Secretary General, United Nations
– Mr. Joko Widodo,
President, Republic of Indonesia (Co-Chair of the 1991 Paris Conference on Cambodia)
– Mr. Emmanuel Macron,
President, The French Republic (Co-Chair of the 1991 Paris Conference on Cambodia)
2. His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia
– Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
– Kem Sokha, President, Cambodia National Rescue Party
– Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
3. Retno Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Indonesia
4. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, France
5. Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia
6. His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brunei Darussalam
7. Chrystia Freeland, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canada
8. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister, People’s Republic of China
9. Sushma Swaraj, Ministerof External Affairs, India
10. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan
11. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laos
12. Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Malaysia
13. Alan Peter Cayetano, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Philippines
14. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore
15. Don Pramudwinai, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Thailand
16. Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Russia
17. Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom
18. Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State, United States of America
19. Phạm Bình Minh, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Viet Nam

BACKGROUND OF THIS PETITION:

The October 23, 1991 Comprehensive Cambodian Peace Agreement referred to as the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement consists of:
· The Final Act of the Paris Conference on Cambodia;

· Agreement on the Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict;

· Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia

· Declaration on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia.

This Paris Peace Agreement provided provisions to promote national reconciliation and to ensure the exercise of the right of self-determination of the Cambodian people through free, fair, and transparent elections. In addition, they provide for a ceasefire and cessation of outside military assistance and for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Cambodia. They also deal with Human Rights protection including the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons and delineate the Mandate of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

On its 26th Anniversary, we, the Cambodian people of both domestic and abroad wish to collect one million signatures and send them to the party signatures countries of Paris Peace Agreement-Cambodia. The eighteen (18) countries included the French and the Indonesian Foreign Minister acted as co-Presidents. Also participating in his official capacity was the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Especially, the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We, the Cambodian people need to remind them that, Mr. Hun Sen is breaching and violating this Paris Peace Agreement; it is unacceptable! Therefore, we, the Cambodian people needed the party signatures countries more than ever to enforce the Paris Peace Agreement. The Dictatorial politics led by Mr. Hun Sen in Cambodia violated all the provisions in the Paris Peace Agreement. Cambodian people need your immediate intervention. Otherwise, Cambodia and her people will never live in with dignity, grace, and integrity.

VIOLATIONS OF PARIS PEACE AGREEMENT:

We condemn, in the strongest terms, the calculated and systemic crackdowns on Democracy– 1991 Paris Peace Accords, Opposition Parties, Non-governmental organizations, Unions, and Independent Media, ahead of the upcoming Senate election on January 14, 2018 and general parliamentary election on July 29, 2018. These recent political developments are strangling Cambodia’s fledgling democracy.
Continue reading Petition Collection and Sent out to Recipients on the 23rd of October 2017

Cambodian-Americans Call for International Pressure on Phnom Penh

Cambodian-Americans Call for International Pressure on Phnom Penh

Op-Ed: VOA Khmer

Cambodian-Americans and Cambodian-Canadians gathered to talk about Cambodia's politics at the 26th Paris Peace Accord conference in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, October 14, 2017. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

Cambodian-Americans and Cambodian-Canadians gathered to talk about Cambodia’s politics at the 26th Paris Peace Accord conference in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, October 14, 2017. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

The conference also discussed the legacy of the Paris Peace Accords, which ended Cambodia’s civil war in 1991 and enshrined pluralist democracy in Cambodian law.

More international pressure should be brought to bear on the Cambodian government, Cambodian-Americans and Cambodian-Canadians said at a conference in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday.

The speakers at the conference, organized by the Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC), discussed solutions to the current political impasse, which has seen the ruling Cambodian People’s Party move to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and allocate its sets in parliament to minority parties and close critical media outlets.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told participants that Prime Minister Hun Sen was leading an illegal “coup”.

“When you have a cold coup, there must be some public disapproval and public reaction. I don’t want anyone to get hurt but I believe it’s possible for people to show this,” he said.

He said that tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid were in jeopardy if the government continued down the same path it is currently taking.

“I can promise you that the gutless people who run institutions like the UN, the World Bank, the US State Department and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affair will say, look, Cambodian people are not doing anything. Maybe they don’t really mind this,” he added. “No, I know that is not true at all. I am quite certain that if it’s a free and fair election, that Hun Sen would not have a chance. I have no doubt about that.”

Panelists posed for a group photo at a conference, organized by the Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC), in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, October 14, 2017. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

Panelists posed for a group photo at a conference, organized by the Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC), in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, October 14, 2017. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

Yem Rithipol, director of OMNI, an advocacy group based in the United States, said he hoped that as foreign aid was paid from tax dollars, Americans would consider withholding aid to apply pressure to the regime.

“If Americans find out that the American government wastes their money on a regime as well as acknowledging and cooperating with a regime considered a dictatorship [practicing] oppression, vote stealing … then the U.S. will react and demand aid be cut off,” he said.

The conference in Seattle was also a discussion about the legacy of the Paris Peace Accords, which ended Cambodia’s civil war in 1991 and enshrined pluralist democracy in Cambodian law.

Hun Sen, however, has recently called suggestions Cambodia should hold a new Paris conference “pointless”.

Van Sar, an activist from Washington State, compared the current government, which claims it is protecting Cambodian democracy by eliminating the opposition, with the Khmer Rouge, which labeled its state Democratic Kampuchea.

Seng Sophan, director of Election Committee for Cambodia, said next year’s planned election could not be “free and fair” if the opposition was dissolved.

“Then it will not only be the international community. Even its own citizens of 15 million people will probably condemn and consider that it is not free and fair. It’s just a political game to stay in power,” he said.