My dear Kacvey,
Before the opening of the Asean-US summit, an Aseanian leader aka Dau Chéch, protectively surrounded, would pensively stroll in the Sunnylands gardens.
Armed with his new self-discovery in FB, he would meet a group of other Aseanian expats who noisily would demonstrate against Aseanian autocrats. Playing the type of a cool-guy-for-photo-ops chatting with the tri-cycle pushers or the gardeners at The Monument of Independence, or even pretending to water the plants and flowers, he could not stand any longer hearing many adjectives that he never before heard in his natural ears launched against him; with a curiosity without precedent, he would feel like desiring to empty his chest.
He would then have decided to sit down on a public bench and chatted with an Aseanian reporter. And the fictional conversation would go as follows:
Aseanian Reporter (AR): It’s very daring of you, Sir, to sit and talk like this thousand miles away from the usual Koh Pich lectern!
Dau Chéch (DC): I’m an old man in new clothes, if you know what I mean!
AR: Sir, since your time is very limited, and the guys in dark glasses are watching us intently, would you mind address 2 topics?
DC: OK. Fire ahead! 1st topic.
AR: Thank you, Sir. How are your pulse and heart beat as you’re about to be presidentially treated for 2 days at the “Camp David of the West” at the American taxpayers expenses like a small number of famous world leaders before?
DC: My palace in Takhmau is many times better, but I must say I start to have some butterflies in my belly.
AR: Why so, Sir? Because of the 1st time and officially in the heartland of contemporary democracy?
DC: I’ve always thought mine is the best…. Well, it’s still the best for me.
AR: Sir, this is the 1st topic. Do you feel affected by the noise of the protest, the words on the banners?
DC: You see, these people have no respect for me: the prime minister, the leader.
AR: Sir, aren’t you then giving too much importance to the protests rather than to the substance of the summit or the draft on the “Sunnylands Declaration” for example?
DC: The substance has already been taken care off prior to the summit, and by the way, the TV will mostly show the protests rather than the formal summit. And it is these TV images that damage my standing with my people.
AR: In the US, Sir, freedom and democracy come with freedom of expression by the people.
DC: Calling me a tyrant is not exercising freedom of expression. It’s disrespect; it’s dishonoring my country.
AR: But Sir, the protests against the politics of the leaders have always been the golden hallmarks of democracy and freedom in the US as well as in Western democracies, even since Athenian time: for example, in the US and worldwide, demonstrations against Nixon and Johnson during the Vietnam War when you were a young KR, against Bush during the period leading to the Iraq War, etc …
DC: I have nothing to say about the Americans against Americans on their own lands.
AR: But, Sir, these folks are Americans on their lands. Why are you against them?
DC: Yes, they are American but many of them also hold dual nationality. They interfere with my politics in my country with their non-American nationality upon which I must exercise control.
AR: Aren’t you contradicting yourself, Sir?
DC: When it comes to my politics and my governance, they are part of my challenge.
AR: So, you believe that you have the absolute rights to rule them the same way you rule the people in your country.
DC: Because I think I rule them, therefore I oppose their protesting against me.
AR: Sir, the bien-fondé and relevance of the protests against Nixon, Johnson or Bush turned out to be right at the end: as a result, Phnom Penh and Saigon in 1975, no WMD in Iraq …
DC: If I had to make decision on those wars, I would not have done the way they did.
AR: But Sir, as a young KR guerrilla, you were part of the “protest” when you went against the imperialism, against the Lon Nol regime and then you fully joined the “opposition” which was the KR at the time?
DC: I was against Lon Nol then does not mean that I now like the protest against myself. I am now on the other side of the fence. Time has changed, don’t you know that?
AR: Historically, Sir, you did the “protest” twice, not in the streets like these folks, but in the “war jungle”: the 1st time against Lon Nol as a KR before 1975, and the 2nd time against the KR after 1977, both time with gun in your hand.
DC: I protested and I acted. The protest was my motivation to act. I don’t now look back at what I did; I’m moving ahead and past history.
AR: History has made you what you are now, why being ungracious to it?
DC: You don’t talk about sickness anymore when you have fully recovered.
AR: So, what you protested against turned out to be greatly in your favor. You reap what you sowed against the wind.
DC: I know that, and I invested in it. You invest right, you get top dividends.
AR: So, Sir, why then are you so against the present protests? Are you afraid that they are right?
DC: The protest makes me look bad; it makes me look like I lose control. You see, the thing is that President Obama and the 9 Asean leaders, they all accept me as their peer. And then why these protest and demonstration in the street against me? My honor is in jeopardy.
AR: May be because President Obama and the 9 Asean leaders are not the citizen of your country. If they were, who knows?!
DC: What are you driving at?
AR: The State Department’s position on “SCS issues” when your chaired the 2012 Asean, for example.
DC: On that issue, I got pounded left and right, East and West. Ah, these world affairs!
AR: Speaking about “honor”, why do you now care so much about “honor” whereas when the KR of yours emptied Phnom Penh in April 1975 and when foreign troops arrived in Phnom Penh in January 1979 with you, nobody or you spoke about “honor”?
DC: Are you a historian or a psychologist?
AR: Neither, Sir. Just like to ask questions to get answers.
DC: Let’s move ahead. 2nd topic, please.
AR: Sir, in your FB account, you seem to have more than 1 million “like”. Do you truly believe that there are more than 1 million of real people who like you?
DC: Portable device and FB are “me and my people”: we are connected!
AR: Are you implying that for the last 40 years, you and your people have never been connected?
DC: You see, with FB, I don’t need to go out and meet them in person in their villages anymore. They read what I write, and they see my face. They see me, and I don’t need to see them. Does a movie star need to meet the people who watch the film in the movie house? No. You act well on the movie set, and you’re a star! The flat screen works wonder for me.
AR: Sir, do you trust the sincerity of every “like”?
DC: I did not force them to “like”; they “like” on their own free will, don’t they?
AR: In Chinese tradition, there is this thing called “gold or silver paper money” that people symbolically burn for wealth and fortune to be sent to the next life.
DC: I see what you infer to, but hey! that’s life in 2016! I have to live my youth that I did not have!
AR: Sir, it looks like you now use your FB to run your government. You make a decision and you broadcast it on FB. If so, why having ministers and ministries?
DC: You see, I’m really gung-ho with FB and in the next governmental reshuffling I might create a new portfolio for social media that could be attached to my premiership.
AR: If you spent so much time on your FB, when do you have time to do the real work for the country?
DC: You already said that I use my FB to run my government. That is my new style, and everybody else in my country has to catch it on up with me.
AR: Sir, when the Asean-US summit starts, will you broadcast your own speech, your discussion with the 10 leaders in FB?
DC: Of course, I will put all the photos and selfies in my page as soon as I have a minute of break.
AR: Why only photos, Sir?
DC: So my fans can see me in my international glory and aura! More “like” to record and to surpass the forced-to-exile “minority leader.” It’s like an enchantment, a magic spell!
AR: How about your speech, your talking, your oral intervention, your ideas, your arguments on behalf of the country?
DC: Generally, in those settings, I don’t speak much, I don’t talk much. I listen a lot. For the camera, I smile a lot.
AR: How would you interact with those leaders who do not speak your language?
DC: I greet them with fewest words; I shake their hands; I talk through my interpreter.
AR: So, your interpreter is the only person who officially hears you talking?
DC: There is no need for other people to hear what I say, because what I say at the meeting is not for public consumption. It is for me alone and my power. No “share”. Period.
AR: Sir, why wouldn’t you like to let your people hear your voice in an international platform which is different from the monotonous setting of Koh Pich lectern and in the working language of the meeting?
DC: Decision in political life is like a power switch: “on” or “off”. This matter is on “off”.
AR: But Sir, when you sign the “Sunnylands Principles” with President Obama and other Asean leaders, it is a solemn and high political act. And the document will not be in your native language, won’t it.
DC: Oh, I will just sign my name where the protocol officer tells me to do. I will smile!
AR: Your people used to see and hear, for example, the late Prince Sihanouk speaking French at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly or with General De Gaulle, and English with Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy!
DC: It’s different strokes for different folks.
AR: Sir, hope this time your wardrobe master do a better job than the last time in Bangkok.
DC: What happened in Bangkok?
AR: Your wrinkled suit, Sir.
DC: Next time, I’ll make a State visit through FB.
AR: Wish you good luck for the golf outing with President Obama on the beautiful course on the estate!
DC: Why good luck?
AR: In the US, golf is a gentleman game, and the rules of the game are gentlemanly respected.
DC: A selfie of me with President Obama on the golf course will crash the FB server!
AR: Thank you for your time and answers. Hope to see you again in Sochi in May.
DC: Ah, in Russia, there won’t be any protest against me!
Update on Saturday 13 February 2016:This from The Phnom Penh Post must be noted.
Update on Tuesday 16 February 2016: Joint Statement of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit: Sunnylands Declaration. Kacvey, please pay attention to Paragraph No. 4.