mardi, octobre 17, 2006

The Tragi-Comic Party Continues

(The Sunday’s Paper - October 13th, 2006)

(Unofficial translation made by Khemara Jati)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Patrice Trapier

(Photo : The view of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh)

Things seen and heard in Cambodia in the unbridled transition of the communism towards the law of the market and sometimes even the jungle's law

Few days in Phnom Penh are enough to raise a question : why the western newspapers never speaks about Cambodia other than only remembering the genocide and evoke the hypothetical Khmers rouge trial for those who still alive ? Nevertheless there are so many things in this small country, a long time French protectorate, under international economic assistance (50 % of the national budget) and for twenty years under Hun Sen control, an "iron Prime Minister" settled by the vietnamese communist. About corruption, misery, human rights violation, Cambodia would deserve many inquiries.

The chief of the police puts himself on the table
Last scoop (worldwide, oh yeah...) of Sylvaine Pasquier in L' Express, this summer : the interview of Heng Pov, the former chief of Phnom Penh police, who fled the country with quite a lot of very compromising documents for Hun Sen regime, especially revelations on the drug trafficking tolerated even more by the authorities and the murders sponsored by his regime.

Of course, seen his old functions, the gentlemen is not a first prize of virtue and the Cambodian justice even condemned him, fissa, to eighteen years of prison for the murder of a judge of Phnom Penh. But it seems that he never acted without the orders of the men in power in Cambodian.

At the moment, a battle rages to know if Malaysia is going to send the policeman back to Cambodia in spite of the absence of extradition's treaty between both countries. Phnom Penh's emissaries were in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of October trying to bring the black sheep to the country. But if Heng Pov managed to find the asylum under the western democracy and even worse, if he began to produce the documents which he insures to keep under safe, the Cambodian regime has something to be concern.

A single example: the attempt in the grenade attack organized in 1997 against a demonstration of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). According to Heng Pov, this operation have been orchestred by Hun Sen with credible proofs. Now an American citizen was injured during this attack. Then the possibility of international pursuits which makes Hun Sen very frighten.

For having lead his country under dictator style during two decades, the Prime Minister, a former Khmer rouge spent with the vietnamese enemy in 1977, tries henceforth to be accepted by the international community. He has to make very soon an official journey in Australia, it is his first state visit since he is in post !

Legal procedures would ruin all his efforts by making him not respectable. The anxiety is such at the highest level which the rumor runs that the vietnamese defenders could eventually replace Hun Sen by someone or several others who fit to the situation (and possibly more docile).

A judge has a stomachache
The desertion of the leader of the Hong-Kong's police already makes its effects in Phnom Penh. A very important appeal had to take place from Friday, October 6th. It was postponed, sine die, under a grotesque excuse.

Let us summarize the affair : in 2004, a very charismatic trade-union leader, Chea Vichea, is murdered. Five days later, two young men are arrested by the police and presented as his murderesses. Their motive ? Stranger. One of them has an alibi in concrete ? It doesn't matter, the Cambodian justice, the corrupt justice or under the orders, has the other thing to fulfill than investigating seriously. Both men, in spite of their denials, are known and presented as murders. They declare of having received tortured to admit the crimes. They are condemned in first instance for twenty years of prison.

Their appeal had begun on Friday, October 6th. But one of three judges was carried pale: « I have eaten something bad on Thursday evening and I had strong diarrheas. » Oh yeah, and so, to better justify himself, the magistrate detailed his stomach troubles. He would certainly be replaced but, by missing of luck, all his colleagues were busy. Courage, let us run away ! It is necessary to say that the imbroglio Heng Pov incites the authorities to be very careful. The former chief of police declared that one had obliged him to arrest both men who are not really guilty. Thus, for the appeal, one shall see later.

Especially, an owner of newspapers stand has just ruined the official version by testifying, just before the appeal : according to this witness of the last minute, both accused persons have nothing to do with the union activist's murder, they were arrested in order to cover up an affair of the State in villainous crime. Chea Vichea and trade unions connected with the opposition began strongly to bother the regime : the proof, his assistant was also murdered, two weeks later.

The communists eliminate a dangerous agitator
We do not see it any more in Europe but a powerful labor movement is developing in these countries which is in progress by the globalization. In the case of Cambodia, the textile industry grows like mushrooms. Chea Vichea and his troops put the general bazaar by organizing strikes and demonstrations. They notably obtained the monthly salary increase from 27 to 47 dollars, but also to limit the coups and the riggings, to abolish the forcing overtime without paid, to organize the beginning of social welfare. The neo-communist regime in power allied with the capitalists of the Southeast Asia wanted to silent Chea Vichea, this dangerous agitator.

The testimony of the newspapers stand's owner is published and reproduced in Phnom Penh's newspaper : on January 22nd, 2004, at 9:15 am, she saw very clearly a professional murderer approaching the union activist and shooting him down coolly before he went back with his accomplice by motorcycle. These both have nothing to do with the condemned persons. Why the declarations come so late, about three years after the crime? She would never have been able to speak out if she had not managed to flee for the foreign country.

So this is the justice in Cambodia.

Can vote only the voters... of the Party
One speak a lot about so many fake elections. Those of 1998 had been the object of a contestation for several weeks, the opposition challenges the CPP of Hun Sen in power to count the votes again, what was never accepted in spite of numerous demonstrations repressed in blood.

But the cheating can start upstream indeed, leading more tortuous and more subtle roads. Until October 20th, the registration on electoral rolls for the municipal elections of the next year takes place. The CPP in the power controlling 90 % of districts, municipalities and villages, these registrations do not take place in a most neutral way which it supposes to be. In villages, the ex-communists get back all the documents of their partisans, proposing (useless to clarify that it is better to accept) to those who are not members of the party to adhere for what one shall give them free identity cards, the precious good, and the polling card. In responsibility for the convert « to really vote ».

A village chief, in the North of the country, invites the CPP voters by loudspeaker to register on lists and only them. On an island where the fishermen are in the opposition side, the chief of the CPP village does his best to ignore them.

The complaints accumulate in front of the national electoral committee (NEC) where the current power agreed for the first time to leave some foldaway seats to the SRP and the Funcinpec of prince Norodom Ranariddh, son of Norodom Sihanouk (in Cambodia, the surname leads the first name). The discussions takes place to quarrels of a great complexity : the voter has to appear in person to register or he can delegate his powers to a member of the party who collects files by packages of a hundred ? A photo is needed or not ?

What seems common place in a democratic country, with urban majority, is it much less for a young population, the majority still rural ? How to leave his / her rice fields, make dozens kilometers, often without car, lose almost a whole day to go to register within twenty days with completely unpredictable office openings ?

And still, very often, in the style of the communist countries, the administrative centre of district is at the same time the office of the party dominating (the CPP) and that of the police. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not abolish yet everywhere the confusion of State-Party.

The jungle's law communist version
The democrats (the Opposition and the associations) fight on the ground of human rights, corruption, deforestation which stresses the climatic imbalance and empowers the State trafficking, the evictions and farmer expulsions or the squatters in cities.

At the beginning of October, several associations of Human rights manifested in front of the National Assembly demanding the vote of a law anti-corruption, the creation of an independent authority to investigate the sudden and considerable fortunes of politicians and the obligation for every elected member or responsible [of the governement] to declare their fortune to the State. The most warned spirits point out that this declaration should extend to all the close relations, the families, the co-workers and the even small staff... We know Ministers who are masters in the art to choose the most surprising men of straw (drivers, cookers).

Anyway, donor countries (the United States, Europe and Japan, among others) begin to find averagely funny that the billions of dollars given to Cambodia for twenty years for the reconstruction of this country finish mostly by fulfilling the pocket of unreliable politicians.

It can seem surprising, but finally not more than that : when the communists managed to remain after the fall of the communism, they proved everywhere their immense talent in the robbery, the illegal sales of the State property, the alliance with managers fearing neither god nor man. Their experience of the political authoritarianism, their absence of scruples, their rule to muzzle the public opinion, gives them a certain experience in the art to marry mafia and ultra-liberalism. These last days, the American and Japanese ambassadors went out of their hinges, explaining that it has been fifteen years since we speak about a law about anti-corruption and since then nothing comes. In this concert, the voice of France is, as very often, inaudible.

Taxis and governor
A last week history told by the Cambodian newspaper in english and french language, more free than newspapers edited in khmer, but its distribution in villages is tiny: hundred of taxi drivers of Takeo province (the South of the country) protest against the obligation forcing them to take a new provincial road much more expensive than the national 2. Previously, taxis had to settle 0,25 $ for the public road; from now on, the rate for the new section is three time more expensively (0,83 $).

The most scandalous: the forces of police, on order of the governor, blocked the access of the public road so that the motorist are obliged to take the private section. Taxis are furious, they protest against the additional cost, adding to the costly price of the gasoline, is far from being fit when one knows the weak purchasing power of Cambodians.

The governor of the Party [CPP] has given over-subtle explanations on the reason of his help in favor of the private company Leng Sovanrith. Cost of the investments, the reliability of the new road... Bla-bla-bla... Claptrap. The true reason of this alliance of the Marxism and the important capital, is the pretty commission which the governor gets on the future profits of the toll road builder.

Of instit’s and madam Minister
The corruption undermines the country, from top to bottom and conversely. « There is a corruption of survival and that of the prepayment in kind », divided by Sam Rainsy, the representative of the Opposition. Corruption of survival ? The nurses or the doctors who demand from their patient an additional price for the slightest operation. If you do not pay money, no bandage, no blood test, no exam, no operation.

Corruption of survival ? The school teachers who demand every morning 500 riels (10 centimes of euro) to their pupils to make them work, to correct their copies, to note them and on Wednesdays, 500 riels more for candies. The salaries of the civil servants, the magistrates, doctors are ridiculously low.

Corruption of prepayment in kind ? Madam Minister of the Women's Affair ( possesses lands almost everywhere in the country. First week of October, about fifty farmers of Kompong Speu (centre of the country) tumbled in front of the National Assembly, in Phnom Penh, protesting against the fact that they had just been hunted from their lands. Madam Minister obtained the loan of a parachutist troop to take recalcitrant back to their place, at night if possible.

Way of speaking! Those who stayed over there, sleep on mats, under a tree, in a hammock. They have nothing more. Madam Minister really manages things well: she emptied dozens families after letting them cultivate the jungle and value the land by plantations. She then asked her henchmen to fire houses but unsuccessful, it rained (it is the end of rainy season); then, the militiamen took machetes and axes and shacks, they made them the kindling firewood.

The operation to keep silent the underprivileged persons failed. The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) stopped the eviction of landless families, he even welcomed them in the office where they camp for some days. Madam Minister assures that these miserable have bad faith, that some of them are even swindlers, that they received indemnity but they hide it. Bastards of poor men! The world's gone crazy : the communist Minister plays the exploiters and the representative of liberal defends the poor men. While swallowing the shop window, the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is not satisfied with this (bad) advertisement. He asked to his Minister to give evidence of a little of generosity in her propositions of rehousing and of compensation.

« Goodbye my concubine ! »
The Cambodian politics itself also offers some farces. With a wide majority (with the cooperation of a big part of the opposition), the representatives [M.P.] voted for a law restricting the field of their own liberties in particular the levying of their immunity in exchange of some financial advantages of which about assured pension (« law of auto-castration » opinion of an expert of the Cambodian affairs).

There was also a law of adultery penalization. The partisans of this surprising measure consider that one had to do something for the deceived women. Then it will be « Goodbye my concubine » or « hello the prison ». Finally, if ever this law is made to be applied, it remains to be demonstrated. There would be nevertheless the other problems - a lot more - to do than to punish the adultery as to make advance the mentalities, the women's condition and especially the hygiene. It is true that many people, especially in cities, have an institutionalized mistress (when they have the means and the prestige) otherwise they frequent prostitutes (for least in sight).

It would already be an immense progress if these men did not return home with any kinds of diseases. In Cambodia, the rate of AIDS at the prostitutes is very high. The legitimize wives see with terror their Lord returning home and requiring, after his escapades, to assume his conjugal duties. All in all it is better to be really abandoned for check !

One vitriol the mistresses
No, this law on the adultery has two hidden purposes.

First it is a gesture of these sirs Ministers to his women. They too have "girlfriends", often young, often dancers, singers, actresses. It is of millennium tradition that king, princes and their councilors choose in the ranks of the royal Ballet those whom they want to put in their bed. But as the customs change, these idiots are sometimes crazy about his second wife, they put her in luxurious houses, any paid all expenses, make children and imagine even leaving their legitimize wives to make their new life.

In the past, the mistresses were a demonstration of power as a beautiful house, a beautiful car. Cambodia gets modernized, makes itself at the time of middle layers comparing to the westerner styles and the wives begin to seriously worry. Then, simply, under the pressure of the custom evolutions, they do not support any more what their mothers or grandmothers patiently accepted: the institutionalized harem.

Then, many women of Ministers found a radical solution. They asked their bodyguards to adjust the matter in their way. And so the French weekly, L'Express, was able to write that the first one of them [Bun Ranny] has bump off Piseth Pilika, one of the great Cambodia stars. Another mistress survived the balls from a murderer... she was only disfigured but her mother died in the attempt. Another woman of Minister, in the height of the despair, moved personally to go and find her rival at a market. The bodyguard threw the mistress on the ground, the wife of Minister planted with her heel in the back and poured four liters of acid. It was thus necessary to do something to calm the wrath of these ladies. A leader of feminist activist admits that a law on the adultery is strange, liberticidal, but all in all, « the prison is better than the crime ».

Nevertheless there is the second reason in this law.

Where is prince Ranariddh ?
One of the figures of the opposition, of course on the decline but still president of Funcinpec, prince Norodom Ranariddh, passes most clearly of his time abroad between his classes in the Faculty of Law in Aix-en-Provence (title which he suspended during the exile from 1975-1991 and he preserved it after his return from Cambodia) and Malaysia where he installed his new (and young) girlfriend whom he has a child. His official wife, princess Marie, stayed in Phnom Penh in the place of residence of the prince, she does not stop being angry, she decided to ruin the prince in any points of view, financial, political, etc...

Hun Sen watches with enjoyment Funcinpec splitting and even if he can contribute to it by helping princess Marie, he will not hesitate to do so. In the past, the Prime Minister settled the political questions with rockets, putsches, murders. With the age, he calmed down a little. On the long term, the number of murderous actions fell, year after year. Hun Sen discovers the virtues of the politics at the Westerner way : throw the ill-feeling at the opponent.

Why, for example, would not princess Marie replace her husband in the head of the royalist movement ? Is it suitable that a representative almost never feet to the Parliament ? Especially if he is a former Prime Minister (1993-1997 ) !


« Prepare your coffins! »
Hun Sen, all again, could not allow to pass without making any reaction to the perspective of the Sihanouk return (who was frequently a leader of the government before coup d'état of 1970, and even when he left the place to other for some months, it was always him who bossed everything). The Prime Minister made a pretence of thundering : if the princes annoy me, I cut foods. Devil, could one imagine Queen Elisabeth or prince Charles take the head of a rival party of Tony Blair or David Cameron ?

By a sentence, Hun Sen even demonstrated that his evolution towards more moderation was to set with serious pairs of tweezers. Such the scorpion's fable which the nature is to kill whatever the consequences, the former regional Khmer rouge leader threatened downright : « those who have such projects can prepare their coffins and they know that I never make any joke. » The politics in Cambodia, is frighten, sometimes.


(Photos titrés)