I am sure a lot of us have learned about the events in Cambodia’s past, both good and bad, especially in the 70s, but how many of us have used that experience to avoid repeating our history? The country’s domestic politics alone would have not divided the nation but external factors had a very large impact given the fact that Cambodia still today can not produce even one bullet. Thus, Cambodia’s external pressures have continued to be a centerpiece for Cambodia’s affairs. Cambodia’s leaders must put the people’s greater common interest before them, while people from all walks of life must respect one another’s values from politics, culture and religion, among others. All of us were born with different values, love different things, even eat different food and like different colors. Although we love things differently and speak different tones and speak different languages; the things we love in common are peace, prosperity and a harmonious society.

Strong domestic unity like strong individual health immunity is such that the virus can not or finds it impossible to infect our health. The same is true when our domestic unity is there, no one from outside can break us apart. We have not had such strong internal unity since the fall of Angkor, till the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Too much was too much for all of us Khmer. I was born in 1971 and went through suffering like many other Cambodians had. I heard bombs falling during high school in the 1980s, I continued to hear fighting when I worked for U.N. as an interpreter, still the war continued to haunt me when I then worked as a journalist for more than 16 years. Those memories—such as mine explosions, westerners kidnapped, another British deminer killed, Cambodians who lost limbs and lives to the fighting between the same blood—have continued to stay in my head and heart. No one wants to see that again.

It’s the first time, maybe in 500 years, that the kingdom of wonder has enjoyed peace under one government thanks to the win-win policy championed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who put an end to the political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, on 29th December 1998. I can not imagine how much more suffering that Cambodians would have had to go through had the war continued.

As the country celebrates a 23rd anniversary, marking the end of decades of war this week, I as a Cambodian would like to a send message to all compatriots at home and overseas: Regardless of your backgrounds and social status, we need to stand united as one and keep joining hands to build our beloved nation. To achieve that common interest, no one is above the law, power sharing must be improved and strengthened, checks and balances must be in place and social justice must be provided. No double standard can be allowed, we must fight remaining corruption and red-tape. Functioning institutions providing public services must be improved and we need to join hands to project our cultural and natural resources, along with sustainable development and no let-up with reforms. These are the key elements that contribute to greater social stability, justice, transparency and accountability. None of us will last forever, we will have our own end, however, our legacies of all forms will not disappear, but continue to remain for posterity, for those who live after us.

I am personally excited and quite pleased with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statements and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s decision to support Military General Hun Manet as a future Prime Minister. He is qualified and deserves the Premier’s post after 2023 or beyond that. However, I would like to see greater efforts taken to address the social challenges I raised. History has told us such issues played a key part in contributing to domestic fallout in the 1970s.

Cambodia needs to posture its foreign policy toward countries near and far, especially regarding the superpowers, along with Phnom Penh’s flexible and careful positions from which Cambodia continues to benefit through its economic diplomacy. The Cold War of ideological clashes between the free camp and the communist bloc is over, but that has not stopped the superpowers in their competition over dominating the world. The superpowers have taken steps to ensure that their supremacy will continue to last indefinitely. For instance, when US, UK and Australia came up with AUKUS, a trilateral security pact between the three countries, it helped Canberra to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Such pact I believe is intended to contain the growing influence of China in Asia. Cambodia is not alone in benefiting from China’s Belt and Road initiative, but others, for instance, such as ASEAN, US, EU, Republic of Korea, Japan and India are also included.

Global politics, economics, military and security have developed from one to another and encouraged world leaders to re-adjust their policies towards certain countries and areas. Cambodia must not become a battleground or stepping stone like in the past. As a small nation we have full sovereignty and independence to implement our policies for the good of our nation and its people. This Southeast Asian nation has continued to stick to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). We’ve had more than enough wars, especially the killing field blamed for the deaths of more 2 million people while accurate data is not known. The country faced sanctions in the 1980s after the fall of Khmer Rouge in early 1979. Hanoi installed Phnom Penh government and back the regime for 10 years to fight Pol Pot’s fighters from returning to power.

Some foreign governments these days may have looked at Cambodia as they did in the past despite the Cold War being over, but Cambodia’s position is crystal clear with its positive stance towards everyone; we want peace and development.

Please do not deem us as an ally or engage or drag us into another war. Cambodia in the 1970s, was in one way or another drawn by the superpowers into waging wars in succession during the Cold War era. The superpowers got their hands dirty one way or another for playing their parts in Cambodia’s conflicts. Military hardware, ammunition, bombs that were used during Cambodia’s civil war were not produced by Cambodia, but imported. Cambodia at the same time must blame itself for allowing the nation to become a political stepping stone of others in the past.

In conclusion, Cambodia needs to be extra careful both domestically and regarding foreign policy to ensure she continues to enjoy stability along with socio-economic development, and also contributes to protecting global peace and development.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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