PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) - Foreigners 'step over the line' by taking part in local political
protests as some reportedly did this week, a self-described long-term
Western observer of Cambodia says.
Referring to a photo reportedly showing a Western woman in a headband with Cambodian protestors including children on Wednesday, blogger Casey Nelson says "other Westerners were present as well ... to my knowledge, this is the first time that Westerners have visibly participated" in such protests.
SIGNIFICANT LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES ...
According to Nelson, "these protests have the potential to generate significant long-term consequences for Cambodia, Cambodian society and the Cambodian people.
"The issues driving the protests have a considerable political component and the solutions are not universally agreed upon by Cambodians," the blogger wrote Thursday.
"Much more importantly, the consequences of such protests for Cambodia may be positive or negative or a mix.
... BUT MOST FOREIGNERS WILL LEAVE
"Most foreigners, especially short term visitors as these foreign protesters seem to be, will not be around to share those consequences. Whether they leave in the near future or when the effects of these protests take hold on Cambodia, they will leave.
"And regardless of whether they leave or not, they will always have the option of leaving and going home to their countries. Cambodia is not their home. As such, they do not share the same stake in Cambodia as the Cambodian citizens whose home will be affected and most of whom must remain in Cambodia and suffer (or enjoy) the effects on their country.
"As their stake in Cambodia is fundamentally different from citizens of Cambodia, these foreigners do not have the ethical right to join political and social protests in Cambodia, or for that matter, act as coordinators behind the protests.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTORS AND CRITICS
"This is not to say the foreigners should remain mute on matters of Cambodian politics and social justice. But there is a difference between being a critic, perhaps offering inspiration, and being an actor, trying to effect change oneself.
"Becoming directly and physically involved in Cambodian political affairs by joining such protests is an action akin to rights correctly reserved for citizens such as voting or running for office, and I would hold that foreigners who have no direct and inescapable stake in Cambodia, have no more ethical right to join protests in Cambodia than they do to vote in Cambodian elections. It is a step over the line."
Nelson's blogspot describes Cambodia as a "mainstreaming" country after a period as an "ostensive democracy and adventure party destination" in the 1990s. Today, it says, the country has "tourism, rapid development, rapacious capitalism and NGOs, missionaries and international busybodies aplenty."