The news cycle got weirder yesterday, as 22 Borei Keila evictees made an escape from an Orwellian “social affairs” center after a visit from Mu Sochua, and 4 protesting villagers near Snoul were shot in cold blood by hired security hands.
The common theme in these examples of extreme government force?
A total lack of respect for Cambodia’s own people.
Cambodia has become a country so divided by rich and poor that I suspect the top-brass of this nation find it difficult to regard their poorer relatives as people, much less as equal players in an ostensibly democratic society.
Brutal violence against the poor seems to be becoming more normal. We may recall the beating of a Boueng Kak lake protester late last year into a bloody pulp. We may recall the constant clashes between police and protesters at the lake – clashes which forced the World Bank into action (not that it seems to give two farts about Borei Keila).
The people of Cambodia were under the impression that the boot of the powerful had finally, after so much suffering and battle, been removed from their necks. Instead, the poor are finding themselves ground face-first into the dirt once again—in the most literal sense of the word.
Interesting debate on Twitter today over whether Cambodia’s course of development will more closely mirror that of India or China.
The consensus? It’s going to be much more like China. China has achieved a true economic miracle in the past 20 or 30 years.
It has done so by means of forced evictions, the violent suppression of free speech, liberal prison terms, a widely enforced death penalty, and the deployment of a police state so profoundly creepy that it has every ostensibly free Western nation worried.
This is in stark contrast to India, where a robust, if shockingly corrupt democracy, means that people do have some legal apparatus to fight back when a developer wants to take their land. It takes a long time to get things built in India because of this. Some might argue it takes too long.
But India, at least for the time being, isn’t willing to pay the price in human suffering that China has for rapid economic development. For that reason, I’ll take India over China anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
Things are better in this country than they used to be – no one will dispute that. But as one mototaxi driver and Khmer Rouge survivor told us at Phnom Bat last week: “This (the evictions) reminds me of the Khmer Rouge time.”
If someone who survived one of the most murderous regimes in human history is drawing the analogy—the analogy a lot of us international commentators are awfully loathe to draw— perhaps we’d best listen.
Last year, we had Preah Vihear. This year, instead of Thai on Cambodian aggression, Cambodia appears to be turning on its own people.
Worst of all, it is turning on the poor and defenseless.