December 5, 2019 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - US meddling in Southeast Asia is extensive. A recent article published by US government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) not only describes this meddling openly, including the exiled opposition's plot to return to Cambodia and seize power, but attempts to normalise it even at a time when baseless and lesser accusations the US has aimed at Russia and China have led to sanctions, growing military tensions and even armed hostilities-by-proxy.
The success or failure of US meddling aimed at Cambodia will be a useful indicator of just how potent a threat US hegemony remains to the nations and people of Asia.
Cambodian Ties to China are the Target
The Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia has over the past several years cemented its ties to China. Phnom Penh's relationship with Beijing is one of many regional indicators of the overall shift across Asia of waning American primacy and the rise of China as both a regional and global power.
China's willingness to aid in tangible development in nations like Cambodia through joint infrastructure projects and the sale of affordable yet effective military hardware contrasts greatly with nebulous offers of "investment" from the US that come attached with sociopolitical preconditions that deliberately target and erode national sovereignty.
Because of Washington's inability to compete directly with China by offering alternatives addressing Cambodia's need for physical infrastructure and affordable military hardware, Washington has decided instead to compete through murkier means.
Open Admission to Foreign Meddling
In title alone, the RFA article should sound alarms over Washington's attack on Cambodian sovereignty.
The article titled, "Rights Group Urges Foreign Governments, Donors to Press Cambodia on Political Prisoners," admits:
Cambodia must end the arrest and detention of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) members and activists for "exercising their basic rights," according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which urged foreign governments and donors to press for the release of those "wrongfully detained."
Not only is Human Rights Watch calling on foreign governments and foreign donors to intervene in Cambodia's internal affairs, Human Rights Watch itself is a foreign front funded by foreign governments and foreign corporate-funded foundations.
The RFA article continues by claiming:
HRW said that among 50 Cambodian political prisoners it listed in an updated database is CNRP president Kem Sokha, who was taken into custody in September 2017 for "treason" and remains under de facto house arrest awaiting a trial that could see him sentenced to up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
The article goes on to mention plans by the exiled opposition to return to Cambodia in force to challenge the Cambodian government.
Omitted entirely from the article is any mention of CNRP leader Kem Sokha's own admission to running his opposition party out of Washington, with Washington's assistance explicitly aimed at overthrowing the current government of Cambodia.
Cambodia's Opposition is Run Out of Washington
The Phnom Penh Post in its 2017 article, "Kem Sokha video producer closes Phnom Penh office in fear," reported admissions made by Kem Sokha stating:
Sokha says he has visited the US at the government's request every year since 1993 to learn about the "democratisation process" and that "they decided" he should step aside from politics to create change in Cambodia.
"They said if we want to change the leadership, we cannot fight the top. Before changing the top level, we need to uproot the lower one. We need to change the lower level first. It is a political strategy in a democratic country," he said.
Regarding US assistance, Kem Sokha would admit:
"And, the USA that has assisted me, they asked me to take the model from Yugoslavia, Serbia, where they can changed the dictator Slobodan Milosevic," he continues, referring to the former Serbian and Yugoslavian leader who resigned amid popular protests following disputed elections, and died while on trial for war crimes.
"You know Milosevic had a huge numbers of tanks. But they changed things by using this strategy, and they take this experience for me to implement in Cambodia. But no one knew about this."
"However, since we are now reaching at this stage, today I must tell you about this strategy. We will have more to continue and we will succeed."
Kem Sokha elaborated, claiming:
"I do 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."
Kem Sokha's daughter, Kem Monovithya, has also worked with the US seeking the overthrow of the Cambodian government.
When Cambodia began its crackdown on both CNRP and the US-funded organisations supporting it, the US threatened sanctions and other punitive measures. Kem Monovithya played a key role in promoting these punitive measures.
The Phonom Post in a December 2017 article titled, "US says more sanctions on table in response to political crackdown," would claim (my emphasis):
...in Washington, a panel of "witnesses" convened by the House Foreign Affairs Committee - including Kem Sokha's daughter, Kem Monovithya - called for additional action in response to the political crackdown. In a statement, Monovithya urged targeted financial sanctions against government officials responsible for undermining democracy. She also called on the US to suspend "any and all assistance for the central Cambodian Government", while "continuing democracy assistance programs for civil society, particularly those engaged in election-related matters".
Like her farther, Kem Monovithya's collaboration with the US government goes back many years. The Washington Post in a 2006 article titled, "While in U.S., Cambodians Get a Lesson on Rights From Home," would first admit (my emphasis):
Kem Sokha, a former Cambodian senator and official, heads the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which is supported by U.S. government funds. The center has held public forums to hear complaints about conditions in Cambodia.
Regarding Kem Monovithya herself, the Washington Post would note (my emphasis):
Monovitha Kem, a business school graduate and aspiring lawyer, said she would lobby U.S. and international institutions to fight Hun Sen's decision.
"I would like to see the charges dropped not just for my father, but for all other activists," she said in an interview Monday. "I hope they will amend the defamation law."
Monovitha Kem has met with officials at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the U.S. Agency for International Development and major human rights groups.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) are both subsidiaries of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which, together with the US government itself, have supported myriad subversive activities within Cambodia for years side-by-side the above mentioned Human Rights Watch.
Other organisations funded by the US government operating inside Cambodia include Licadho, which is funded by both the UK government and the US via USAID. It also includes Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, both of which are funded by the US government and overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors chaired by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo himself.
There is also the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, funded by NED subsidiaries Freedom House and IRI as well as the British Embassy and convicted financial criminal George Soros' Open Society Foundation which also provides funding to Human Rights Watch.
Decades of US meddling in Cambodia's politics, including the creation of both Kem Sokha's opposition party and organisations created and funded by the US government to support it, along with plans to overthrow the current Cambodian government to install CNRP into power, represents in reality political meddling many times worse than even the most fantastical accusations made against Russia in regards to meddling in US and European politics.
Defeat Sedition in Cambodia Today, Defeat it Everywhere in Asia Tomorrow
Not only is this meddling openly admitted by the US government itself in articles like RFA's regarding Human Rights Watch calling on foreign governments to intervene, it is normalised. Were Russia or China organising exiled criminals planning to "return" to the US to seize power in Washington, it would be understandably interpreted as an act of war. Imagined meddling already has been labeled as such.
Cambodia lacks the economic, military and political might to openly accuse the US or act against it and its proxies in proportion to the threat RFA itself admits Cambodia faces from US-backed opposition figures. What little Cambodia can and will likely do to hold US-backed opposition figures accountable for their open plans of sedition will be condemned by the US and Western Europe in hopes of hindering Cambodia's defences just enough to incite instability inside Cambodia or even possibly overthrow the Cambodian government.
For allies like China, it is obviously in their best interest to expose as well as oppose US meddling in Cambodia. The same forces at work targeting the Cambodian government are also involved in backing rioters in Hong Kong and terrorists in Xinjiang.
For other Asian nations like neighbouring Thailand who has only just recently repaired diplomatic and economic ties with Cambodia, assisting Cambodia in exposing and stopping this openly declared plot to target and undermine the Cambodian government will expose and undermine future efforts by the US to carry out similar operations against Thailand itself.
Thailand's institutions including its courts, military and constitutional monarchy have been the target of US sedition for many years as well and face a similar conglomerate of US-funded opposition parties and fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations. The US often executes regime change operations aimed at multiple nations at one time to create "synergies" between opposition forces they are backing and any major operation aimed at Cambodia will likely include efforts to destabilise neighbouring states like Thailand.
Cambodia's ability to contain, expose or even completely overturn US-backed sedition will be just as much an indicator of waning US primacy over Asia as Cambodia's growing ties to Beijing illustrate. Should US-backed opposition groups achieve any success at all in Cambodia, it will signal that the region is still vulnerable to US machinations and that now more than ever complacency should be guarded against.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".
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