My dear Kacvey,
A conversation between two fictitious Khmer was overheard on the bank of the Mékong near Préah Ang Dangkoeur shrine in a Blood Moon night:
Khè Séiha: So, you did it on 16 November 2017, huh!
Dèk Chréss: I did what?
Khè Séiha: Come on! You arrested him on the night of September on trumped treason charge, locked him securely up in Trapèang Phlong, dissolved his party, and took the 55 seats and distributed them to the scums.
Dèk Chréss: Easy job, I just snap my fingers and all the stooges move like crazy. And when I scream a little bit all the 55 run away like rabbits seeing a flashlight.
Khè Séiha: Now, you’ve become Caesar!
Dèk Chréss: Not only Caesar, but all the dictators in the contemporary world: I’m the longest living tyrant, and still counting.
Khè Séiha: You’re going higher and higher and you’re not afraid of being dizzy and falling?
Dèk Chréss: I’m on power drug prescription, and don’t need antidote. The sky is the limit.
Khè Séiha: You don’t care of what had happened to guys like Bhutto, Saddam, Gaddafi … even Mugabe or Saleh?
Dèk Chréss: Look, I pay a very high price for Khmer and foreign bodyguards to protect me. If there is a hole in the wall, so be it!
Khè Séiha: Le Duan, Le Duc Tho and Le Duc Anh put “the 2 December 1978 gang in Snuol” including you in power for more than 30 years ago, don’t you now have enough of it? Moreover, all three of them have long gone, and been successively replaced by others. You’re getting old and physically weak by the day, you know or don’t you? Bodyguards have to carry you up the stairs of Angkor Wat terrace, you couldn’t even sit straight, you almost tripped with the Bangladesh prime minister, you’re puffer and puffer, slower and slower, you can’t barely turn your hip, you’re losing hair, you have black spots on your face and sagging eyelid, your incoherent and sometimes self-contradictory speech! Why hanging on?
Dèk Chréss: You’re talking nonsense! I know I’m doing good. Singaporean doctors give me clean sheet of health.
Khè Séiha: You know, doctors treat the sick and do not feel the pain or shame for you. Your pain is not theirs and they don’t give a shit for your shame. You pay them to tell the world that you’re OK, right or not? And you know damn well that you don’t feel good inside yourself!
Dèk Chréss: I’ve already told you I’m OK. And I prayed big at Angkor Wat, you know! My health is nothing compared with my ambition.
Khè Séiha: You pray after committing unforgivable sins against the people? You think that Preah Buddha has no divine sense of justice? You’re committing more sins by involving Buddha in your scheme. This is where things are getting tricky: you’ve been going through many periods of time: KR with Pol Pot, deserting him to go to East of the border to be under its protection and influence, fighting Pol Pot’s remnants, UNTAC, putting Samdach Euv back on the throne, smashing his son’s party, winning some elections, and now this: crashing the opposition and putting Samdach Euv’s son back under your armpits. No man can manage politics through different eras of CHANGE of global thinking and globalization. What more do you want for yourself?
Dèk Chréss: I have not finished the job that I began: 1) I’m selfish, and I can’t accept that Khmer do not submit to me. 2) You talked earlier about the 3 “Le”; I’m bonded to them as long as I live, and I don’t even want to think what would happen if I “un-bond” myself from them. 3) What I’ve made to feed my family and my power is not self-sustaining.
Khè Séiha: Then, you’re no different from a pig; the more a pig eats and is fed, the more it wants to eat, until the farmer puts it in a truck to the slaughterhouse.
Dèk Chréss: I was a KR, and later a commie in the Eastern country. As such, I know the rules of the game that were taught to me. The rest is self-taught and self-surviving.
Khè Séiha: Self-surviving at the top of the political scale?
Dèk Chréss: That’s right.
Khè Séiha: At the expense of others?
Dèk Chréss: Of course! I’m the big beast ruling this political jungle, ain’t I?!
Khè Séiha: You surely are, but the rules of the game have changed since the 1991 Paris Peace Accords and UNTAC.
Dèk Chréss: Why invoking that Peace Accords after 25 years? They officialized and baptized me then. And I rule!
Khè Séiha: You do rule, but there are new rules that you have to abide by.
Dèk Chréss: I already did during earlier elections, but the 2013 elections, Kem Ley’s funerals and the 2017 elections gave me goose bumps and send me unexpected and unintended messages.
Khè Séiha: You’re clever enough, why don’t you learn from it and re-draw your philosophical or moral lessons?
Dèk Chréss: I’ve spent it all during these 30 years and nothing new could be invented anymore.
Khè Séiha: Isn’t this an omen that your time and era are up for change?
Dèk Chréss: True, but as I said earlier I have not finished what I began.
Khè Séiha: So, you persist to go on, don’t you?
Dèk Chréss: I have no choice. They are bigger than me, they rule me and the rules from the Peace Accords and UNTAC do not work for me anymore.
Khè Séiha: So, you change the rules to fit your renewed determination.
Dèk Chréss: Yes, changing the rules and applying severe repression to get rid of the opposition once and for all. I have to survive.
Khè Séiha: Did you expect that once the opposition is dissolved, things will be back to normal like before?
Dèk Chréss: No I didn’t. I miscalculated one thing: mixing up the media and civil societies with the opposition. Before, I only had the opposition to go against, but now I have 3 opponents combined together: opposition, media and civil societies. What makes it worst for me is that this combined force has the support of the international community against which I’m ALONE.
Khè Séiha: Alone?
Dèk Chréss: Yes, alone. Alone. Alone. Not even with C, J and VN; they keep on saying they either “don’t interfere with my internal affairs” or support “stability” but nothing comes out of their capitals louder and stronger than Washington and Brussels have said and put into effect so far… Disheartening!
Khè Séiha: Are they your real friends or just politically opportunistic and self-centered friends?
Dèk Chréss: I’m trying to figure it out.
Khè Séiha: Why so? Strange?
Dèk Chréss: My mistake is that on the one hand the “issues of islands” in the South China Sea are no longer in the agenda of the world or ASEAN, and on the other J and VN are pissed off with me as they saw that I sold my entire soul to defend C in every place and instance on “issue of islands” even against J and VN positions.
Khè Séiha: In other words, you’re fucked, domestically and internationally.
Dèk Chréss: More or less. That’s why I become more and more brutal with the opposition in order to show C, J and VN that I am in control no matter how insane and crazy options I have taken. They know that I’m in a jam, and what they’ve been doing is to hope and wait that I could come up with some kind of “Khmer” arrangements that would alleviate internal political tension that I have personally created to preserve my status.
Khè Séiha: Are you saying that C, J and VN are not going to challenge Washington and Brussels?
Dèk Chréss: They won’t, because, to them, Cambodia’s internal issue is not worth fighting for.
Khè Séiha: Are you then considering yourself as nothing more than a cheap puppet?
Dèk Chréss: Oh, oh, no such strong words, please. Politics is always a gamble. If you play, you have to play it hard. Nothing is given free.
Khè Séiha: Sorry, I’m a little emotional as I see what you’ve been doing is totally irrational and insane.
Dèk Chréss: You might be right, but this is the game I chose to play.
Khè Séiha: To play and not winning?
Dèk Chréss: No matter, I slog it on. Too late to change direction?
Khè Séiha: Really? Who said?
Dèk Chréss: Nobody has said anything to me about “changing direction” because they know that I’m not a person who eats my own words. I don’t want to become a “chkè!”
Khè Séiha: A chkè? You must be joking! Has any Khmer politician turned into a chkè if she/he doesn’t keep her/his promise or words?
Dèk Chréss: The pressure is extraordinarily heavy on me now as I am always running behind the rapid flow of events.
Khè Séiha: How about your Frakesh News and Tamarind Tree? Are they doing anything to help you going forward or are they just stupid sycophants that you like to surround you?
Dèk Chréss: They are my mouth piece in disguise, therefore they contribute nothing to my thinking. They bark when I throw a bone to them before I open the door.
Khè Séiha: Look like you know the type of quagmire you’re in, but yet you remain stubborn.
Dèk Chréss: I’m thinking.
Khè Séiha: You know you can’t go on behaving like this, don’t you?
Dèk Chréss: Yes I do, but to change course is not what I’m born to do. I’m born to be what I want to be, on my own terms, not on other people’s terms.
Khè Séiha: Generally, working people retire from their work after more or less 30 years. Why do Khmer leaders never think about that option, but rather hanging on to it like a baby monkey hanging on to the belly of its mother?
Dèk Chréss: Samdach Euv and I are the 2 persons who have these 3 common features: low education, never working as employees, and top leaders! Retirement is therefore not in our language.
Khè Séiha: So, you must then remember what happened on 18 March 1970?
Dèk Chréss: Ha! Ha! 18 March 1970 made me for who I am on 9 January 1979 onward!
Khè Séiha: But since 9 January 1979 till now, 29 years have passed: different time, different events, different thinking, different technological era, different people everywhere; it makes you a “passé.”
Dèk Chréss: Being a “passé” in Cambodia is a licence to future…
Khè Séiha: … on which you have no control.
Dèk Chréss: True, I don’t have control over time, but I’m determined to have absolute control and power over people.
Khè Séiha: Are you driving towards a cliff? You took the power from the people and you still continue to oppress them?
Dèk Chréss: Choice, I don’t have. I’ll break them until they are broken.
Khè Séiha: You’re becoming more KR than the KR you’ve been. If so, you’re slowly opening the ECCC’s door to welcome you as case 008 or 009 or 010 or whatever. Hope you don’t forget that a case against you has already been registered at the ICC at The Hague.
Dèk Chréss: Don’t talk misfortune, please.
Khè Séiha: You miserably create your own misfortune. If you break them, you will never repair or mend them. Sometime broken china vase could be restored, but the man who can restore the trust and confidence of the people after having broken them to pieces hasn’t been born yet.
Dèk Chréss: What’s the alternative?
Khè Séiha: Are you thinking about reviewing the whole enchilada?
Dèk Chréss: I’m listening.
Khè Séiha: You’re still have the power, but the power that you took from the people after July 2017 elections must be returned to its legitimate owner.
Dèk Chréss: How can I? Abrogating those laws? Releasing the opposition from Trapèang Phlong?
Khè Séiha: That’s right. If those laws were created by men of yours, they could be dismantled by men of yours. If the opposition was arrested and jailed by men of yours, he could be released by men of yours. Men create, men destroy, men recreate.
Dèk Chréss: It sounds simple but I can’t do it.
Khè Séiha: Why not? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Dèk Chréss: It will involve a hell lot of things and my guys will be wondering what’s going on?
Khè Séiha: Since when you worry about those guys who jump when you tell them to jump?! If you could organize everything to reach this point, who tells you that you can’t undo those things?
Dèk Chréss: You have a point.
Khè Séiha: Moreover, you engineer and orchestrate everything, and your name is nowhere to be seen on those papers, why not be a little gentle to history about yourself and your family?
Dèk Chréss: I can feel the quiet resistance and the air of defiance in the eyes of the garment workers and my FB no longer carries weight that it once did.
Khè Séiha: You mean credibility and popularity?
Dèk Chréss: Yeah, both of them plus mockery and daily virulent challenges.
Khè Séiha: Critical time calls for critical thinking and analysis; you are standing on the highest point of your fortune wheel, and it spells peril for you.
Dèk Chréss: It’s past midnight; time to go.
Khè Séiha: We talked earlier about Caesar. Don’t forget: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. In other words, render unto the people the power that is people’s. Good night!