Stop imperialist tug-of-war over Cambodia!
Support the Cambodian people’s struggles against imperialist intervention!
(A Joint Statement of the Asian Peasant Coalition and the Youth for Food Sovereignty)
23 November 2017, Philippines and Indonesia — The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and the Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS) condemned the United States (US) and China’s intensifying imperialist tug-of- war over Cambodia. We call for genuine independence and people’s democracy in Cambodia.
Last November 16, the Cambodian government led by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) dissolved the “opposition “party Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) thru a Supreme Court ruling. This is the latest in a series of moves by the CPP against CNRP, including the arrest of its President and former Minority Leader (before the position was abolished in January 2017), Kem Sokha in September this year.
Hun Sen, CPP President and Cambodian Prime Minister, has earlier repeatedly threatened to shut down CNRP. He has accused them, along with other opposition groups, of treason in plotting a “color revolution” style regime change, pointing out their close links with the United States (US). For nearly three decades, the US, along with European and other Western countries, has spent billions of dollars in aid and donations trying to build a “multiparty democracy” in the country. Hun Sen has recently faced harsher criticisms from Western countries amidst his intensified crackdown of “oppositionists.” As response to the recent Supreme Court ruling against CNRP, the US has withdrawn election support for Cambodia, promising more “concrete steps,” the European Union (EU) on the other hand has threatened vital trade sanctions.
Backing the ruling Hun Sen government, however, is China’s overwhelming capital export to Cambodia and its official stance of “non-interference.” Chinese aid accounts for nearly 36% of foreign aid to Cambodia (nearly four times to that of US’), while its investments cover 30% of all investment capital in the country (greater than the Cambodians’ themselves). Hun Sen’s close ties with the nominally socialist country goes back to the 1990s, reaching a peak on July 1997 when Hun Sen began his rule on Cambodia thru a coup. Western countries including the US then quickly denounced the move and cut donations and aid, China however continued, planting the seeds of its dominant influence in the region. The similar retreat of US aid today is feared to push Cambodia into further dependence on China, compelling some to insist on US support.
No lesser evil
In the background of all this is the intensifying rivalry between the US and China amidst the former’s pivot to Asia Pacific which started under Obama, and the latter’s increasingly aggressive rise as an imperialist nation in terms of the economy, politics, military, and foreign relations.
This imperialist tug-of-war between the US and China over Cambodia should stop. It puts the Cambodian people in a pinch “between the devil and the deep blue sea.” As their sovereignty is consistently undermined, no matter which imperialist influence wanes or intensifies, the toiling Cambodian masses are deprived of the capacity to chart an independent path to development appropriate with their concrete conditions, culture, and history.
China uses the ‘independence’ rhetoric against US interference, and for preserving its own already- established influence. The US on the other hand uses the ‘democracy’ rhetoric against the Chinese- supported elite rule, for its own political project. In reality, neither advocate for either. The two imperialist countries are merely competing for dominance over Cambodia, as is the situation in many developing countries.
The imperialist rivalry of US and China over Cambodia cannot be seen as a choice between a lesser evil – regardless, either would be tantamount to selling the Cambodian people out.
A call for genuine independence
The salvation of the Cambodian people cannot come from foreign gods – not from the US, not from China. Only the Cambodian people themselves can liberate the Cambodian nation. Hence, we support the Cambodian people’s struggles against the imperialist intervention of any nation, and for genuine national independence and people’s democracy.
APC, an organization of peasants across 11 countries in Asia advocating for genuine agrarian reform together with the YFS, a rural youth organizations advocating food sovereignty, fully support a genuine independence and democratic people’s movement in Cambodia.
Genuine pro-people Cambodian organizations must step up their campaigns in raising the consciousness and the political participation of the Cambodian masses, especially the poorest farmers and workers. The economic rights of the toiling Cambodian masses for food and work can only be fully assured alongside a political struggle for national independence and genuine democracy.
The South East Asian (SEA) region is fast becoming a decisive stage of contest between the US and China. The people of this region however are not meek sheep waiting to be commanded upon. The poorest populations of SEA have endured decades, even centuries, of foreign imposition of anti-people policies. They however have also demonstrated throughout history their militancy against neo- colonialism and autocracy. Today’s increasing international tensions can be expected to again compel more and more people to militantly assert their independence and democratic rights, the Cambodian people included. #
Zenaida Soriano, APC Vice-chairperson (Philippines)
Harry Sandy, YFS Chairperson (Indonesia)
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