Why Cambodia shuns interventionist aid

By Shihlun Allen Chen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/27 20:18:39

As the US threatens to cut all the aid for Cambodia's general election next year in response to the dissolution of the country's main opposition party, its prime minister Hun Sen has clearly stated that he "welcomes" the move.

Official statements from the EU, the US, Japan, Australia and Sweden have shown concern or even harshly criticized the Royal Government of Cambodia's decision. Possible sanctions and aid suspension to Cambodia have been proposed and used to threaten the Hun Sen administration especially after the Supreme Court announced the dissolution of the main opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), and banned its 118 members from political participation for five years.

There could have had been an ethical or procedural debate on the arrest of Kem Sokha, leader of the CNRP, and the CNRP dissolution verdict. But it has to be acknowledged that the sovereignty and integrity of the Royal Government of Cambodia should be valued and respected under any circumstances. Further, Cambodia's political stability and sustainable development should not be sacrificed to fulfill the political agenda or value judgment of foreign powers.

Cambodia's current political situation should be understood at two different levels.

First, whether the series of political decisions and moves in Cambodia's politics have constitutional and legal bases? Apparently, with domination of parliament after the 2013 election, the current ruling party, Cambodian People's party, has been using its position to pass the law for its own benefit, like the ruling party in any nation will do. These provide sufficient legal grounds for the series of political steps after 2015, though such sweeping victory may be seen as unhealthy. But there is no doubt that the royal government's decisions and moves have legal bases.

Therefore, the second question goes to the debate whether the accusation of injustice against the Royal Government of Cambodia is an act of foreign intervention in the nation's domestic affairs, if the government does not follow certain standards or share particular values those Western donors or patronages uphold.

Anyone who is familiar with Cambodia's contemporary history would be able to recall the struggle and suffering during the Cold War, as well as what happened right after the 1997 clashes. Cambodia has been a victim of foreign intervention and political turmoil.

The political stability and economic development in the past two decades have gradually allowed Cambodia to move from an underdeveloped country to a low middle income country. Although such an achievement would not be possible without foreign aid, the sovereignty and integrity of the Kingdom should be fully respected as should be the determination of its leaders to maintain national security, economic growth and stable development.

Unsolicited opinion and advice by foreign forces about Cambodia's domestic affairs are not needed in the interest of the country. In other words, cutting off social resources and jeopardizing Cambodia's economic development is not only an act of bullying, but also perpetuates neo-colonialism to marginalize Cambodia's public and discourage foreign investors.

These Western donors claim that foreign intervention with a value element is an act of social justice for a weak state like Cambodia, not realizing that not every society shares the same values. Such interference involves economic patronage using humanitarian assistance to influence domestic affairs of the country.

This is why the leaders of the Royal Government of Cambodia have repeatedly addressed the need to differentiate among sovereignty, integrity and foreign aid partnership. There are two different foreign aid patterns of countries providing assistance to Cambodia over six decades of aid-dependent history. There is the Western style of patriarchal assistance and China's equal and respectful aid.

With the global development partnership that the Belt and Road initiative aims to establish, China has clearly announced its willingness to support and share its economic success with neighboring countries. It is China's commitment to the region and to the globe on collaborative prosperity with community partners, while it fully understands and respects other countries' self-determination and selection of development paths.

The author is an associate research fellow at Sun Yat-sen University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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