Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Analysis​ by Sam Sotha "Should Cambodia Follow the Arab Spring Revolution-“People Power?”"

By Sam Sotha {The comments in this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia}

What is Arab Spring, how and why it instituted, and what is its impact?  Can it spark a similar wave in Cambodia?  These questions are raised since there has recently been similar sentiments deepening across some sectors within Cambodian society.

To get good understanding of the Arab Spring which in effect is a revolution aimed at “Regime Change,” one should start from the origin of the crisis.  On December 2010, in Tunisia, a 27 year-old street vegetable vendor -the only last hope for his daily income- set himself on fire in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment by the police officers.  This act was a reflection of the citizens’ dissatisfaction of the prevailing economic condition within the country, which it turn, exacerbated a high level of social unrest and sparked a wave of dramatic and bloody political and civil across the Arabic world, known as the “Arab Spring Revolution.”

By the end of 2011 some countries, namely Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, governments were overthrown by the uprising of the people and hence began what has been termed as “People Power.” In Tunisia, then President Ben Ali fled the country just one month after the revolt, and a new government was formed. But the new government is still encountered with political crisis and is struggling to hang on to power. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters have been rallying on the streets demanding for the government’s ouster.
One month later, the revolution in Egypt resulted with the topple of President Hosni Mubarak within a month of protests, and later sentenced him to life in prison.  The interim government had been formed and followed by several elections: the constitutional amendments, parliamentary elections, and the presidential elections in which Mohamed Morsi, of the Islamic Brotherhood leader had been elected.
Ironically however, since the topple of a long time absolute leader President Mubarak in early 2011, there were political divisions among religious leaders and the establishment of the military elites.  A bit over a year after the election, the newly and democratically elected Egyptian President was again forced out from the office.  Tens and hundreds of thousands of Mr. Morsi supporters were called out to carry out sit-in protests and were crushed by the riot police and military forces, resulting in the death of over 600 people and thousands were injured.  Though there was anguish and cry of cry of foul play from several countries condemning the violence, at the same time some countries kept themselves at a distance.
Following the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Libyan people started their revolts against ruler Muamma Gaddafi with the formation of the rebel opposing groups to fight against President Muamma Gaddafi’s loyal forces. Civil war exploded.  To boost his troops, Gaddafi hired the mercenaries from the neighboring countries to fight against the NATO backed rebels- forces. After seven months of fighting Gaddafi’s military forces were defeated, Gaddafi was killed, and the opposition-led Western powers conducted the elections and the new government was formed.
In Yemen, the wave of revolution of People Power from Tunisia started in early 2011 and ended up with the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.  There were tense protests with tens of thousands supporters from the opposing side, which lasted a year which saw repression on the protesters by President Saleh’s loyal forces which resulted of more than 2,000 people killed and more than 20,000 wounded.  Finally, the US, Saudi Arabia and the Golf Coordinating Council (GCC) brokered a deal to get President Saleh immunity and saw his fleeing Yemen to the US.
For Bahrain, the Kingdom which has population of less than one and a half million was also hit by the wave of the revolution of People Power in early of 2011 where the protests started and organized by the Shiite majority against the Sunni royal family.   Protesters demanded greater democracy and reform. Even though the Gulf States had provided billions of US dollars in assistance to boost social services and reform as demanded, but the ongoing protests do not help the development, because there are no remedies to quick fix the disparities and economic recovery.  At the same time monarchies in the Golf states cannot afford a monarchy in Bahrain to lose, so they provided mercenaries to quell the protestors.  There were few international events that had been scrapped away from Bahrain.  Recently the King has approved the amendment of the 1973 Law on Public gathering and Demonstrations to out-law all sit-in protests and gatherings.

Algeria and Jordan have also been hit by the wave of the revolution of People Power, but their President and the King, respectively, have been making efforts such as conducted reforms within their own governments, organized parliamentary election, used their oil wealth assets to enhance social services and welfare programs for poor families and elderly, provided vocational training and created jobs for un-employed young people.

The wave of Arab Spring hit one of the South-East Asian countries as well, Malaysia.  In 2011 the opposition was trying to topple its government by calling “mass protest.”  Tens of thousands marched into the streets of the capital, claiming that the government rejected their demands for an overhaul of voter registration and stricter measures to curb alleged electoral fraud.  They were calling for an Arab Spring in Malaysia, but the Prime Minister has firmly said “the government is not afraid of a Malaysian Spring.” The authorities briefly arrested hundreds of them and used teargas and allegedly chemical-laced water canon to disperse the demonstrators.

To quell the demonstration the lower house of Malaysia passed a law banning street demonstrations, the Act allows people to gather only in places such as stadium and halls.  Though the calling for protests was still continuing after post-13th general election, but it was evaporated as people got tired and wanted the parties to get on with the business of governing rather than bicker and protest on the streets in the of democracy but only resulted in causing hardship to the masses in general.   

To conclude, there was apparently revealed that the impact of Arab Spring revolution is deep.  It has already been stained by political turmoil and division of power, and in many cases with armed conflict and forced repression.  But, most importantly, for ordinary people they have been bumped into economic hardship, because the unrests hamper the development.  Furthermore, the ongoing social unrest has been discouraged and/or even scared off investors and foreign tourists as well.  

For Cambodia, a peaceful reconciliation brokered by the United Nations in 1991 is intact and has been crossed through five consecutive general elections and coupled with three commune council elections.  The history of atrocity and genocide, and the history of revolutions from the past shall not be repeated in Cambodia. For the last few decades until the complete dismantling of the Khmer Rouge military and political organizations in 1998, innocent people had endured mental and physical pain and suffering.  Now they are proud and enjoy the country’s development, especially under the government’s fourth term mandate under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen.  Therefore, Cambodian people do not need “Cambodian Spring!” Cambodia does not need “People Power” through street protests, instead Cambodia needs “People Power” through the ballot box!
About the author:  Sam Sotha is a former Ambassador to Mine Action, Explosive Remnants of War and Disarmament. 

No comments:

Post a Comment