Cambodia and My Bad Excuses
Reading about the coming national elections in Cambodia, and the crackdown on the media and the opposition; I was thinking about the last election in 2013. At the time I was in Cambodia. Still, I regret that I did not do anything to show my support for those who stood up against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party. They have been ruling Cambodia for more than thirty years. And Cambodia is ranked as number 161 out of 180 in terms of corruption.
There is no guarantee that the opposition party would have fared any better regarding human rights or corruption. But the protests were just as much about people’s right to protest.
Still, I did nothing, and that was the case, as far as I know, with most expatriates. I was thinking: ”I am only a guest here”, “they can send me out”, “my support would not make a difference anyway”, among the bad excuses I came up with.
I was just sitting indoors during Sunday demonstrations, sniffing the tear gas; or listening to the organized street rallies by the ruling party. Rallies with, probably, paid “supporters” on scooters and open trucks.
One Journalist is Killed Every Week in a Highly Corrupt Country
Two weeks ago Transparency International launched the Corruption Perception Index 2017. Where they highlight the importance of a free press and a civil society in the fight against corruption.
According to Transparency International, one journalist is killed every week in a highly corrupt country. 9 out of 10 journalists being killed last year, was in the most corrupt countries in the world. What corrupt people fear more than anything is to be hold to account.
That is why journalists and activists are such a big threat. In a previous article I wrote about the connection between disasters and corruption. And why supporting local journalists, activists or civil society may do more to reduce disaster risk and alleviate poverty than any development program will ever be capable of.
Corruption is a symptom of everything else that is rotten in a society. Corruption is part of a society dominated by short-sighted selfishness. There is no future in corruption.
Instead of Bad Excuses
So what could I have done back then during the last elections in Cambodia? I could simply have asked one of the demonstrators, many of the monks, “What can I do to support you?” Perhaps I could have posted something on social media when I was safely out of the country, thereby informing the rest of the world. Or simply kept in touch with some of the brave activists, just to show my support. In other words: there were several things I could have done, even without putting myself in danger.
None of it would have been extremely significant or toppled the regime. But it would have been a thousand times better, than what I did do: NOTHING. And I would probably have contributed more to raising people’s spirit in countries such as Cambodia, than all the “important meetings” and “platforms” I have ever attended.