My dear Kacvey,

Here we go again! After “ASEAN and the US” in Sunnylands in February 2016, it’s now “ASEAN and Russia”, in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The competition between superpowers is always on, in time of either peace or war; and they all court small countries to have them as pawns or partners, or whatever you can call them.

Russia, not to be outdone by the US will host on 19-20 May 2016 the meetings in Sochi, a jewel and Putin’s signature location.

Prior to that gathering, a notional chat between Cambodia (fictionalized as Chiso) and a Russian reporter (transposed as Sochi – from an imaginary newspaper “The Truth”) would take place in a luxurious dacha reserved for the occasion. The chat would go as follows:

Sochi: Sir, Welcome to Sochi, the antipodes of Rancho Mirage!
Chiso: Priviet!
Sochi: Sir, do you feel comfortable in Russia and being with Putin? Would you be afraid of being treated like a “Semyon”?
Chiso: Look, I wouldn’t know what’s in their mind, but a “Semyon” of yesteryear is now the “supremo” of Cambodia! Just look at the “red carpet” laid at my feet!
Sochi: Sir, how do you feel from the heat and drought at your Phnom Chiso to the coolness of Sochi?
Chiso: The drought gives me a lot of headache as I do not know how to assure the farmers who depend on the rain to start plowing. No rain, no rice. If no rice, big trouble ahead for me.
Sochi: But you make a lot of publicity about providing only drinking water, but not a word about water for agriculture?
Chiso: I have some plans in my mind: building dams to preserve water, digging more wells or drilling deeper boreholes …
Sochi: That will not solve the present drought problem, nor the next crop of rice.
Chiso: I know that, but as politician I have to make promises to assuage their grief and hardship. Politics is promises; not to keep them is an art and skill politicians must have.
Sochi: Sir, how do you feel here in comparison to Sunnylands?
Chiso: In fact, I like it here better than in Rancho Mirage as I don’t have to worry about the demonstrations by those who dislike me. Russia’s concept of freedom is similar to mine: freedom for the top!
Sochi: Without the demonstrations, you would not know how much you are disliked, your dauphin included, would it?
Chiso: I know how to gauge the “dislike”, that’s why I clamp down on the opposing view when I sense that the level of “like” is seriously dropping.
Sochi: Sir, do you now feel “disliked” or “threatened”?
Chiso: What are you talking about? I’ve been here for 31 years, I gotta to be “liked”. Nobody can threaten me, I have no peers who dare threatening me. In my books of politics, who threatens first scares the rest.
Sochi: That seems to be the current atmosphere in your country.
Chosi: Confirmed! I sense the “disliked” on the speedometer, and I send everywhere the threatening signals immediately: in the bedrooms, the airports, the cafés/bars/reataurants, the casinos, the NGOs, the smart phones, the banks, the press … and it works wonderfully.
Sochi: Sir, you seem to feel insecure.
Chiso: You are injecting idea or notion that is Western. In my country, if I feel insecure, I’ll increase and thicken my perimeter of protection so I would be more and more isolated from real people.
Sochi: Sir, so anything goes when it comes to people who disagree with you.
Chiso: They can disagree with me as much as they like and as long as they live so long they don’t challenge my power, my seat, my authority, my name, my title, my fortune, my wealth, my party, my honor and whatever I do.
Sochi: That’s one-man’s rule, Sir.
Chiso: Finally, you’ve got it right.
Sochi: Sir, why do you consider simple people who just happen to do their jobs as their responsibilities require as a threat to you?
Chiso: In my job, I see no one outside my party as safe from being a conspirator against me, nobody. The simpler they look, the more attention I have to pay. If you ignore conspiracy, conspiracy will not ignore you.
Sochi: Even just wearing black on Monday?
Chiso: Conspiracy is multi-faceted, including color. If I find them, I have them locked up, no matter who they are, even UN employee with diplomatic immunity.
Sochi: Sir, you seem not to care about the constitution and the laws.
Chiso: The constitution and the laws are made by my party, therefore by me. And I see them the way I see them fit with my interests.
Sochi: Sir, it sounds like there is a state of paranoia in your thinking.
Chiso: You call it paranoia, I call it awareness, alertness, prevention, crash it before it’s too late.
Sochi: Speaking about black color and black slack and shirt, you were very familiar with that type of outfit when you were a KR, weren’t you?
Chiso: Then was then, now is different from then.
Sochi: You are not alluding to worm and butterfly, are you?
Chiso: Do butterflies worship or revere worms or caterpillars? Do you know that humans and museums run after butterflies collections?
Sochi: But Sir, man is not butterfly.
Chiso: True, man is not, but man admires the beauty of butterfly … not worm!
Sochi: Sir, do you think your government can carry your party and you to elections victories in 2017 and 2018?
Chiso: What an undocumented question you’re asking! If you even have a hint that my party will not win the next elections, you know nothing about the mechanics that have been put in place at every level of the structure of the country to ensure that the elections will be carried out smoothly, peacefully and democratically for the victory of my party. After 31 years, the tree of my power is like a huge banyan tree with roots spreading everywhere and providing cool shades against the heat from the sun. And as a local myth goes, no Cambodian dares remove and dig out a banyan tree.
Sochi: Unless it is with a chainsaw.