Opinion: Misguided Analysis Ignores CNRP’s Many Policy Proposals

In his analysis “Amid Chaos, Time for CNRP to Get Serious” (August 3), Alex Willemyns insists that the CNRP has not addressed the real and serious problems facing Cambodia and that I, in particular, as opposition leader, have essentially used my Facebook page to engage in trivial disputes with the ruling CPP, thus leaving aside fundamental issues such as “the country’s dilapidated health care system, lack of serious education options and unremitting corruption, while hundreds of thousands of young people have fled abroad in search of work.”

—Opinion—

By going on to write that “the CNRP has spent little, if any time pushing proposals to fix these major issues,” Mr. Willemyns wants to convey the idea of an irresponsible, if not irrelevant, opposition.

It is obvious that Mr. Willemyns has only read some of my most recent Facebook posts relative to defamation lawsuits that government officials have filed against me. He should have done his homework better by also looking at a long series of posts on my Facebook page from September 1, 2015, to March 17, 2016, that precisely dealt with those issues that we all are concerned about. Here are just a few examples of my addressing those issues:

• Youth unemployment: On September 1 and 16, I pointed to the fact that “hundreds of thousands of Cambodian youth have to leave the country as migrant workers because they cannot find jobs in Cambodia,” and I announced that I would elaborate on “economic policies that any responsible government would implement in order to create decent jobs meeting the needs of the Cambodian youth.”

• Job creation and salary increases: On September 30, I explained that  “Productivity and Value Added are the two determining factors” in winning the battle against unemployment and low salaries. On December 29, I elaborated on additional approaches and measures to create well-paid jobs based on the development of modern and competitive industries. 

• Measuring and increasing productivity: On October 21, I stressed the importance of good quality education, professional training, research and development, investment in modern technologies and technology transfer from more advanced countries.

• Labor migration and better jobs: On January 17, I suggested, as a key to stopping the exodus of farmers and workers, seven concrete measures to increase agricultural productivity so as to reduce poverty in the countryside. On February 26, I underlined the need for Cambodia to progressively move away from cheap labor industries (notably garment) and to attract new industries generating significantly higher added value: electronics, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, robotics, etc.

If Mr. Willemyns had done his homework before writing his article, he would also have noticed at least some my letters published in the English-language press, such as The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily, the very newspaper he is currently working for.

They include letters highlighting policy initiatives such as raising the minimum wage for garment workers, helping migrant workers find stable lives in Cambodia, balancing development with preserving indigenous ways of life, establishing an effective public health policy and structural reforms necessary to boost the rice sector, and agriculture productivity more generally.

Therefore, saying that since the beginning of the National Assembly’s current legislature, “the CNRP has spent little, if any, time pushing proposals to fix major issues,” is grossly inaccurate and unfair, not to speak about the efforts that CNRP lawmakers have made to push for various reforms and measures to curb government corruption in the face of the ruling CPP’s conservatism and inertia.

To further his allegation that the CNRP is not “serious” as reflected in the title of his article, Mr. Willemyns implies in his comments that the CNRP has been unable to develop and promote any “detailed policies about how it would fix” the country’s most pressing issues. He then makes the underlying suggestion that the CNRP, as the only parliamentary opposition party, has not prepared any “serious” political platform.

When Mr. Willemyns pressed me with questions requiring a quick response to meet his press deadline earlier this month, I was rather busy and didn’t want to spend too much time answering questions that I told him were “tendentious” in that “his answers were already [included] in his questions.”

He complained that he could not reach colleagues of mine who were in the country and would have been available, under normal circumstances, to provide an answer to any questions on the CNRP’s political platform.

Because he appeared to be in a hurry to make a judgement on the CNRP’s seriousness—even to the detriment of his—I felt the need to warn him, “Under these very special circumstances, please wait for the return of any one of my competent colleagues and try to refrain from making hasty suggestions or conclusions.”

Mr. Willemyns ignored my warning and did make a suggestion that proved to be hasty and inaccurate. Along with this emailed letter, I attached a 67-page political platform that the CNRP is going to present to the public before the upcoming elections. The document, prepared with the technical assistance of Germany’s Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung foundation, has only been used so far as a basis of discussion for the party’s top leaders for their external communication.

Sam Rainsy is president of the opposition CNRP.

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