My comment at The Economist on Cambodian politics

Not a single sentence in this article mentions that Hun Sen himself is a former member of the brutal Khmer Rouge. And it also fails to point out that Sam Rainsy of the CNRP did not just gain most of the seats in parliament but also won the July 2013 election in a landslide, despite Hun Sen’s attempt to prevent a large number of citizens to vote and instead grant the voting rights to non-Cambodian citizens to vote for Sen’s party.

And then, just like the Myanmar junta that ignored the election won by Aung San Suu Kyi in 1990, Hun Sen being the dictator that he is chose to ignore the election result and thus remains in power. Of course CNRP then protested and regards Sen as cheating the election, but the way this article construct the paragraphs (and without the vital info of landslide victory by Sam Rainsy) makes it as if CNRP are just a bunch of crybabies, while in reality Sam Rainsy more resembles Cambodia’s Aung San Suu Kyi.

Moreover, for protests on land-grabbing this article never mentions who the grabbed lands were for. Hun Sen not only implements land grabs by developers that left many homeless, but also frequently got rid of land-owning farmers by force, to give foreign corporations an “economic land concessions” for plantations or factory building. One example is the demolition of a rice field in an village of Chouk on 19 May 2006, by a Thai corporation Khon Kaen Sugar Industry PLC.

Dozens of farmers tried to stop the bulldozers, but the police then quickly open fire at them, in which a female protester was injured. A barbed wire fence now surrounds the fields, which have since became a sugar plantation, while 200 hundred families in Chouk lost their livelihood. Cambodian NGOs estimated that since 2003 around 400,000 people have been driven out from their own land in the same manner.

Sure, foreign garment makers such as Levy-Strauss, Puma and GAP are now reviewing their options, but it is more on the basis of the risk of violence among the workers, not as a protest of Hun Sen’s brutal land-grabbing and oppression on its people, which provide them with the land and labour in the first place. And on the shooting of garment workers, yes the unions together are pushing to double the minimum wage from $80 to $160 a month, but the protest by the garment factory workers was demanding $120 a month, that’s $4 per day. Currently they have to live with just $2.67 per day, while Hun Sen and his cronies live in luxury. And you wonder why Cambodia stagnates as a poor country?

Considering that these important facts are being overlooked, it raise some questions on why the article is almost as if being apologetic towards Hun Sen’s crimes? With decades of abusive power isn’t he deserve to be treated like Gaddafi or Mugabe? Or is he more of a Somoza, he may be a son of a bitch but he’s their son of a bitch? They of course being those who greatly benefit from the crimes impose on Sen’s own countrymen, those who championed privatisation – even in Sen’s brutal way – to grant them cheap land and cheap labour wrapped nicely under the banner of comparative advantage in a free-market world.