Thursday, November 7, 2013

Food for Thought

Poor Cambodia

When my father was still alive, I used to hear him lamented about dictatorship and oppressive rulers in Cambodia. Whenever he touched on Cambodian politics in his talks, either with his friends or his family members, he always wished to see Cambodian rulers stopped following dictatorial leadership style and followed the principles of liberal democracy. Now, my father had already died. And he died without realizing his dream of seeing Cambodia free from the grip of dictatorial leaders. Based on what I have observed, my father was not the only Cambodian who had a lifelong's wish to see Cambodia becoming a country free from oppressive, dictatorial rulers. Countless Cambodians from one generation to another had or have the same desire. Many of them spent most of their lives fighting for this illusive freedom while others resign to their fate. It has been half a century now since I was born and Cambodia remains politically the same as it was in my father's time. One of the questions I have often asked myself is: Will Cambodia be freed from dictatorial rulers within my lifetime? Though anything is possible, it feels like an oxymoron to think that Cambodia could some day be freed from dictatorial rulers. One reason for this pessimistic thought is that whenever I look back into the behavior of Cambodian leaders in the past including the one who is currently ruling Cambodia, I see them all behave like the animal characters portrayed in George Orwell's book, Animal Farm. All Cambodian leaders, from the past to present, fought so hard to rid Cambodia of dictatorial leaders. However, as soon as they succeeded and became leaders, they behave exactly like the one they replaced. That is to say, they themselves become dictators. The problem with dictatorship is not that we could not get rid of it. It is rather that Cambodian people keep missing the opportunity to get rid of it. For instance, after the UN sponsored election in 1993, the people who are tasked with writing a new constitution could have put term limit on the prime minister. But, they didn't. They could also have put provision to have governors elected by the people rather than appointed by the central government. They didn't. There are many other things such as conflict of interest, transparency, and administrative organization laws that they could have enacted to ensure that the ability for a dictator to shrive within government leadership is weak. But no one seemed to bother doing anything. For example, there is no law on the number of deputy prime ministers. While most countries has only one deputy prime minister or vice president, Cambodia has more then 10 deputy prime ministers. By having so many deputy prime ministers, the prime minister is assured that there is no one to succeed or challenge him. Thus, the dictator will have free reign to abuse his power anyway he pleases. And the poor and powerless Cambodian people will continue to live in deprivation of freedom.

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