My dear Kacvey,
By now, you must be extremely sick and tired of the word “strongman” or “strong man” that every media refers to the autocrat that is not only fighting the flood of the monsoon in the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk but also has become demoniacally despotic against the opposition and its members, the media and the civil societies. Since Noteworthy News page has chronologically and extensively documented on what has been going on since 2 September 2017, let for our part talk about something else and try to answer some of the questions raised by your students, like why the strongman is weak and so desperate. Oxymoronical, isn’t it?!
Merriam-Webster provides two definitions to the word “strongman”:
– a politician or leader who uses violence or threats;
– a man who performs in a circus and who is very strong.
However, Thesaurus gives three definitions:
– a person who performs remarkable feats of strength, as in a circus;
– a political leader who controls by force; dictator;
– the most powerful or influential person in an organization or business, by reason of skill in the formulation and execution of plans, work, etc.
Merriam-Webster gives the definition of “weak” as: lacking strength, mentally or intellectually deficient, not factually grounded or logically presented, not able to function properly, deficient in the usual or required ingredients, not having or exerting authority or political power.
Merriam-Webster also defines “desperate” as: having lost hope, giving no ground for hope, involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration, suffering extreme need or anxiety, involving extreme danger or possible disaster.
The questions that your students have asked could be reformulated as follows:
– What motivates the autocrat to adopt current policy of dictatorial repression towards Cambodian people and institutions?
– How strong is the strongman in ruling Cambodia?
Before going forward, there is an unmovable and solid premise that has to be anchored in one’s mind: The autocrat was a revolutionary communist, a rebel Khmer Krâhâm and a full-fledged member of the genocidal Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary. The fact that he betrayed his movement and sought political refuge and ideological mentorship in a foreign country changes nothing to his conviction and loyalty to what he had learned in his revolutionary youth: power, once acquired, must be preserved at any cost. Once a Khmer Rouge, always a Khmer Rouge.
In Noteworthy News page, your students can find plenty of views, opinions, information, analysis and comments by a plethora of pundits, writers, journalists and reporters to whom appreciation and gratitude are honorably extended because without them our knowledge would be blind of both eyes.
Now back to the above questions of motive and despair.
Kacvey, you may recall that in the past this subject has been touched upon in various letters e.g: Parsing an anguished statement, The CUP is empty, 2016: The Year of Mortal Repression, Can They Really Prevent “Color Revolution”?, Generation “DEMOCRACY”, If He Were Overthrown, What Does That Mean For The Country?
Fear is a new-born monster that haunts the autocrat since July 2013; that monster became bigger in July 2016. He can’t wipe out from his mind and eye the million of Cambodians flowing in the streets of the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk and also towards Takéo. Never in his lifetime has he ever been greeted similarly; never has he ever been acknowledged and received so warmly and wholeheartedly by the mass of million; never has he ever been solemnly and proudly respected by the mass of million. The ego was shot and wounded by an invisible arrow made of Khmer conscience and awakening, a mass of million of Khmer citizens that he refuses to acknowledge their true love for the country and the democracy that they have just been endowed. The message was clear and visible, but he can’t see or nor read due to optical deficiency, perhaps.
Then came the results of the 2017 communal elections. The “dot” on the “i”. The monster has grown up and played hard, but quietly. The fear has increased in intensity and there is no medical remedy available, even from Singapore! Paid consultants could not provide different mathematical and scientific projections. The trend is now known and unchangeable towards July 2018. The party base is stunt, quiet, shuts their mouth, shrinks and feels embarrassed. Higher up in the party echelon, same attitude of languor and lassitude. At Koh Pich, what he sees is rows and rows of uninterested, cold, incurious and insensible audience. Fear and uncertainty are all over their face as well. Garments workers are now cajoled day after day with promise of every sort including photo-ops of casual lunches “à la Khmère.” But the inconvincibles remain inconvincible; they know the difference between hypocrisy and sincerity, principle and baloney. Dignity is always behind their mask and the smile at the sewing machines.
Fear has been joined by two new companions: panic and despair.
10 months to go and the party is lethargic: no new ideas nor thinkers, no new platform, no perspective nor inspiration, and no road map to the future. Party, assembly, senate, government, justice are the same marionettes executing and marching to the order of the autocrat. On stage, marionettes look happy because they are brainless and manipulated; but when the show is over they are a pile of discarded and valueless puppets. What to do to escape the inevitable? Without power and with their marketable skills below zero, they would be reduced to the status of being ruled and governed; it would be too shameful to accept it. This is where the old Khmer Rouge devilish tactic resurrects and creeps out: dictatorship, repression, jail and guns. To hell with democracy! To hell with rule of law! To hell with respect of human rights and dignity. To hell with freedom of expression or association! To hell with whoever disagrees with me!
Fear in facing the 2018 elections and possibly losing it is the internal weakness of the man who lacks courage and prowess and who feels so insecure to be a real man in the battle of ideas, perspectives, programs and vision for the country and its people, in other words , the battle at the ballot box.
Where is his intestinal fortitude to face the challenge of a democratic, free and fair election? His heart and guts fail.
Does red revolutionary valor melt in the mass of accumulated corrupted wealth that he can’t enjoy in-or-out of the country? Fear of losing that wealth weakens the audacity and brazenness that he once had in poverty and rebellion time.
Does the man at the age of 65 still have the physical and intellectual daringness and intrepidity of his youth to contest the young democracy and the thirst for freedom aspired by new and different generations of Cambodians? No man is made of stone unless he’s a sculpted statue standing alone and decorated with pigeons droppings.
Can he, in his loneliness, picture lines of voters throughout the country dropping their ballot in the box? He can’t anymore when such image of possible reality gives him cold feet. A man or a chicken!?
If fear and despair are not the motive, let him prove that he can enter the electoral arena with all the contestants like in July 2017, that he is a man who is not afraid of another man in front of the ballot box where the people of Cambodia are the judges and arbiters. Mano a mano, with ballots as gloves. Once he’s in the arena, let close the gate and let the monster loose! Ave!
If he won fair and square, he would be able to restore his dignity and his ego recover its pride and vanity. If he lost, history may have nice words towards his legacy.
Not long ago – courtesy of The Phnom Penh reporting – he also publicly and ignominiously said to the garment workers that “the 1991 Paris Peace Accords .. was dead in the water.” He was showing off his ignorance to the local workers, but he has no courage to officially and diplomatically communicate his belief to the 18 State that were signatories to the said Peace Agreements. A weak strongman talks the talk but never walks the walk. A fool has a big mouth and a very small brain.
It’s not yet too late to make a trajectory adjustment. Failing that, the presumed strongman is not only weak and desperate, but he turns himself into a coward dictator.And as the world has known, every dictator, past and present, on this planet, commands no respect and admiration from the people he rules, and only sycophants and flatterers shower him with false praise and approval. However, once he’s gone, it’s his descendants who have to live in shame and dishonor. Any memory about Pol Pot, his leader, once?
– Phnom Penh Post, 24 November 2017: PM warns party of complacency in leaked audio
– Asia Times, 27 November 2017: Is Hun Sen secretly insecure?
– BBC News, 4 December 2017: Hun Sen: Cambodia’s prime minister prays for good fortune