Is it a political endgame?

The Khmer Times, 15 September 2016

Cambodia’s future hangs in the balance. It is bound for political instability unless there is a quick political breakthrough based on win-win strategy.
A genuine political will to find a political settlement is critical at this stage.
After more than one year of political tension and bashing each other, the two main political parties – the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – are at a crossroads, and they have to choose either to talk or to use force and protests.
It is very likely there would be a political endgame in which both parties would play their last cards. However, this will be a lose-lose scenario and no one will emerge victorious.
A cycle of political revenge and violence will continue to haunt Cambodia.
The CNRP is left with only one last card, which is to hold a series of mass demonstrations, a similar strategy to the one it used after the general elections in 2013 to bargain for power.
The demonstrations will be more carefully and strategically crafted in coordination with the international political movement.
A people power base plus international diplomatic pressure are the two main instruments of the opposition in its power struggle.
The US, European Union, United Kingdom and Japan have shown their sympathies and support for the opposition and become more critical of the Cambodian government with regards to human rights and democracy issues.
The CNRP has effectively convinced the US and its allies to put more pressure on the Phnom Penh government, which has been in power for more than three decades.
The CNRP-planned street protests aim to force the ruling CPP to the negotiation table. But if that is not possible, the movement will transform itself into a political storm and a people movement to delegitimize the incumbent government.
The opposition is campaigning for a large international demonstration on October 23, the 25th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia, to urge the international community to pressure the Cambodian government to respect fundamental freedoms, democracy, and human rights.
Media communication is also part of the CNRP’s strategy in garnering international attention and support. Over the last few months, international media outlets have highlighted the ugly side of Cambodian politics.
The CPP is aware of the strengths, weaknesses and next moves of the CNRP. In response to the planned demonstration, Prime Minister Hun Sen has clearly and firmly urged the armed forces to curb and suppress street protests or any actions that potentially disturb public order and security.
Preemptive strikes have been applied by the CPP as its optimal strategy to prevent the protests from developing into large-scale people movements or revolution. Early intervention and preventive measures will be exercised.
The government is going to use all necessary measures and means, including force, to maintain the status quo in its own favor. The CPP will continue to apply its divide and conquer strategy to weaken its opponent.
The ruling elites share a strong view that the CNRP is a core threat to their survival, national security, and stability. Only the CPP can provide long-term peace and stability, and development to the people, they say.
Internal power competition and transition within the CPP are also a matter of concern. The CPP is planning to empower its young leaders to take more responsibility and leadership roles in the next cabinet reshuffle.
Meanwhile, the CPP is also strengthening its people power base, particularly in the rural areas. Mr. Hun Sen has been traveling to visit local people in provinces to convince them to stay confident and positive in his leadership.
On a diplomatic front, the CPP has forged a proximate strategic and economic partnership with China to counter the mounting pressures imposed by the US and its allies. China is regarded as the most important strategic partner.
Cambodia is at a critical juncture. Any political endgame will likely put Cambodia into a renewed state of high risks and uncertainties.
Only responsible political leadership and a win-win strategy can save Cambodia from political instability and turmoil.
It may be wishful thinking, but all political parties should put national interests above all else.
Cambodians have suffered enough. The young generation has big dreams. The most important role of the political leaders is to generate opportunities for everyone to realize his or her dreams and potential.

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