My dear Kacvey,

Well, with about five weeks to go before Chaul Chnam, the tailors in the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk seem to be very busy as the government is dressing up and “rebranding” Cambodia before the nuptials with Asean on 1 January 2016. For such an important occasion, new clothes are “de rigueur”! So, you also must, mustn’t you?

What a strange thing that is happening to Cambodia! It seems that contemporary Khmer leaders would have changed Cambodia from a country to a product, an item, a bar code, a commercial entity that they fully exploit for their own benefits.

Cambodia, where is your pride? Do you still know what you stand for? Do you still have an identity?

Except for the wonder of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, as a country, does not echo well to the ear of the world, and its reputation is almost at the bottom of every report. The World Bank ranked it 184 out of 189 countries for “ease of starting a business”, and 178 out of 189 for “enforcing contracts”; Transparency International ranked it 156 out of 175 country on Corruption Perceptions Index; Human Rights Watch gave a very scathing evaluation for respect of human rights; Global Witness reported the continuous deforestation of all four corners of the land; the national budget depends on foreign aids and subsidies; immigration of neighbors by busloads or boatloads; the justice system keeps the powerful out of its hand; land grabbing is at unprecedented scale; social unhappiness can be seen everywhere …

Against this gloomy and cheerless landscape, instead of responsibly addressing at tackling these difficult and critical issues, the so-called bright new blood thinks that there is a magic wand available in the Western market, the power of which can be so almighty that even the sun might shine in the night. The magic wand would be in the hand of 2 “rebranders” coming from the soft drink and film production industries.

Kacvey, before going further, this is what Simon Mainwaring, a famous branding consultant had to say: “Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader doesn’t happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies.” He further added: “It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values.” And please stand ready to be branded on your forehead!

Let stretch a little bit our imagination. Don’t “Rebranding Cambodia” and the 2 “rebranders” remind you of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

Pluralistic ignorance is what is all about in present Cambodia.