Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Asean and Hun Sen

Publication Date : 24-07-2013

Led by Indonesia, Asean succeeded in bringing together all warring factions in Cambodia, including current Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Khmer Rouge (which was fully backed by China) to reach a peace agreement in Paris in October 1991.

Now, Indonesia has the obligation to engage itself in democratising Cambodia as it is clear that Hun Sen could become a new headache for the regional grouping because he has been in power too long and has an authoritarian governing style.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs to take an emergecy diplomatic measure by convincing the Cambodian leader to allow his main political opponent — Sam Rainsy — to participate in the polls.

Without the participation of Rainsy, the July 28 election is merely a soap opera because no-one, even the royal family, is strong enough to balance Hun Sen’s power. Hun Sen has made it clear he has no intention of stepping down and according to some media reports he is even preparing his own children to succeed him.

Hun Sen endorsed the recent return of the self-exiled Rainsy to King Norodom Sihamoni. His refusal to provide fair treatment to his political rival only confirmed the allegations that his endorsement was merely a political ploy.

The former Khmer Rouge fighter owes much to the regional grouping, especially Indonesia, because its super patient diplomacy played a pivotal role in ending the prolonged bloody wars there, especially between the Khmer Rouge and Hun Sen’s camp. Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 helped him become de facto leader of the war-torn country, following the butchering of millions of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge.

It is hard to accept denials that Hun Sen, who has been effectively ruling Cambodia since 1985, was behind the Cambodia National Election Committee on Monday in its refusal to let Sam Rainsy contest the July 28 polls.

As a retired Army general, Yudhoyono undoubtedly has played an important role in convincing Myanmar’s generals to end their brutal dictatorship by learning from Indonesia’s experience after Soeharto’s fall in 1998. Now Myanmar President Gen. Thein Sein is leading sweeping political and economic reforms to one of the world’s most impoverished nations.

Indonesia needs to launch quiet diplomacy to persuade and encourage Hun Sen to allow his political rivals to challenge his leadership in the July 28 election. The Cambodian leader needs to be reminded by a trusted friend that it is just a matter of time before his strong political grip on Cambodia backfires, unless he chooses to act like a statesman.

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