from Red Fire online
The quinquennial Cambodian elections are set to take place in the South-East Asian nation on July 23, and U.S. imperialism is up to its old tricks once again. This time, Washington has employed U.S. based social media giant Facebook to do its bidding.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had his Facebook account suspended after “The Oversight Board”, which supposedly is run independently of Meta (Facebook’s owner), overturned Meta’s decision to leave up a video in which Hun Sen allegedly threatened his political opponents with violence. In response, Hun Sen said he would move to Telegram, Tik Tok and local television to spread his political message. US-government-funded Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson pushed the bounds of rationality by claiming that Hun Sen was called out for inciting violence against his opponents by Facebook, and had moved to Telegram which is supposedly “the favoured media messaging system of despots ranging from Russia to Myanmar”.
In reality, Facebook is being utilised by the US deep state to prosecute its ongoing meddling in Cambodian affairs, with the aim of installing a pro-Washington regime hostile to Asia’s largest economic and military power – the People’s Republic of China (PRC). To their credit, Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are aware of this blatant interference and in recent years have taken legitimate actions to remove pro-US political proxy forces from their small nation.
On July 3, the Cambodian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications expelled all Facebook representatives and ordered the social media giant to halt all activities. The ministry stated that it had reviewed Facebook for irregularities, the creation of fake accounts, the dissemination of false information and interference in the political affairs of the country. Arguably, if many more governments around the world had taken such action 10 years ago, there would never have been the “Arab Spring” and a host of attempted “colour revolutions” throughout Eurasia, Africa and Latin America in the time since.Unlike its neighbour Thailand, in recent years the Cambodian government has acted to punish those who work with the US state department in order to overturn or destabilise society. In 2017 the Cambodian Supreme Court dissolved the US backed Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its leader Kem Sokha was charged with treason for plotting the overthrow of Cambodia in collusion with Washington. During the hearing at the time, the Cambodian government’s lawyers presented 26 pieces of evidence that proved the CNRP was involved in a plot to topple the administration.
When Kem Sokha was subsequently sentenced to 27 years in prison for conspiring with the US to oust Hun Sen, the liberal Western media claimed that such moves were “politically motivated”. Yet this was no trumped-up charge. A video which was cited by the Cambodian prosecution has Kem Sokha clearly stating that he does not “do anything at my own will. Their experts, professors at Universities in Washington DC, Montreal Canada, hired by the Americans in order to advise me on the strategy to change the dictator leader in Cambodia.”
In the same video Kem Sokha admits to visiting the US every year since 1993 !The CNRP was clearly a front for US state sponsored regime change in Cambodia, and its successor the Candlelight Party (CLP) has also been denied the right to run in the July 2023 elections. Cambodia’s election commission demand the CLP produce its original registration document from the Ministry of Interior in order to run for the election. The CLP, however, claim that the document was lost in police raids on the CNRP offices in 2017.
The Western corporate media blares that the CPP has banned the “main opposition party” prior to the election. This is a likely story. Reporting conducted by the New Atlas has exposed the role of the CIA public relations arm – the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – in Cambodia over previous decades.
The NED itself admits to funnelling more than one million US dollars just in the calendar year 2021 to a host of “civil society” organisations in Cambodia ostensibly promoting the “rule of law”, “press freedom” and “citizen participation”.
It can scarcely be more apparent that these activities only act to build a political pole of opposition to the Cambodian government and society in general in favour of US foreign policy interests for Asia and the Pacific, via willing or misled dissidents and impressionable youths.
US foreign policy interests in South-East Asia are primarily bound up with attempting to sever, break or sabotage relations with the PRC. Cambodia, as a small country historically mired in poverty, has little choice but to engage in mutually beneficial relations with the PRC, given its vast and predominantly state-owned economy which fuels ongoing economic growth for itself, its neighbours, and those who trade with it. The PRC is Cambodia’s largest trading partner, with China accounting for 21.6% of the Cambodian Kingdom’s total trade of $44.56 billion from January to October of 2022.
A China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement officially took effect on January 1, 2022, after two years of negotiations. This is not a free trade agreement with winners and losers, however. Under its terms, more than 90% of products attract zero tariffs on both sides, and Cambodia and China agree to deepen co-operation with the PRC’s flagship trillion-dollar infrastructure and investment project the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as in areas of e-commerce and economic technology.
As one result, by the end of 2022, Chinese firms had invested more than 10 billion US dollars in Cambodia. With a per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximately 1600 dollars, Cambodia can hardly turn down the offer of working with the gargantuan socialistic PRC economy. Yet this is precisely the aim of US imperialist meddling in Cambodia, as well as Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and any other country in Red China’s vicinity. Cambodia’s growing economic ties with the PRC infuriate Washington, which is largely powerless to stop them short of provoking a civil war, or indeed some kind of war against the PRC in the Pacific. This is unfortunately what the US seeks to provoke in the South China Sea, where it openly taunts Beijing by sailing warships through the area, and even through the Taiwan strait. In addition, the US Biden administration continues to pressure Cambodia over the building of the Ream Naval Base in the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodian officials have insisted that the Ream Naval Base will be accessible for multiple nations, not just the PRC. The US government is not convinced, given that Chinese firms were involved in its construction, which took place after US built buildings at the base were demolished in 2020 to make way for it.
As with many other countries, the US state has applied sanctions on Cambodia in a vain attempt to undermine or reverse its economic and military co-operation with the PRC. In September 2021, the US House of Representatives passed the “Cambodia Democracy Act” which allows the President to impose sanctions on individuals in the Cambodian government, military or security forces which supposedly “undermine democracy” and commit “serious human rights violations”. The US government had already imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia as a “military end user” alongside Myanmar, the PRC, Russia and Venezuela. These sanctions have little effect, given the fact that Cambodia was long tilting away from economic and military deals with the US in favour of those with its Chinese near neighbour. It is entirely to be expected that any nation that asserts a shred of independence from the US Empire will in return be labelled a “dictatorship”, with a “lack of human rights” and a supposed non-democracy. With the economic rise of the PRC, many such nations can now afford to ignore this black propaganda and simply discontinue ties to Washington.
To be sure, the CPP is not always a friend of the working class. During the fraudulent “Covid-19 pandemic”, Cambodian government officials stridently defended nonsensical vaccine mandates as “normal” which has “nothing to do with human rights violations”. In fact, forcefully injecting people with a potentially deadly substance is the very definition of a violation of human rights. Despite this, the governments of China, Australia and the US strongly supported the Cambodian governments widespread imposition of vaccines during “Covid”, even if they did not impose brutal lockdowns as hysterically as they were in China, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Hun Sen and the Cambodian government proved wholly inconsistent in seeing through imperialist narratives.
Despite this, it is in the interests of workers internationally to defend Cambodia against the encroachments of US and Western imperialism, from election interference to funding pseudo-progressive “civil society” fronts up to and including regime change. Cambodia has the right to engage in trade and military co-operation with the PRC, and whichever country they choose. At the same time, neither the CPP nor the Communist Party of China (CPC) has the political outlook which can guide workers of South-East Asia forward. The CPC is enmeshed in Maoism/Stalinism, and one result is that it does not propagate socialism or even class struggle inside or outside China. Neither does the CPP, even while it partially defends itself from Western interference. What is required are workers’ states in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand, combined with proletarian political revolutions in China, Vietnam and Laos. The precondition for this upheaval is the assembly of Trotskyist vanguard parties throughout the region, to ensure the triumph of socialism and the subsequent end of US imperialism.