The Suicide of Cambodian Democracy

The Suicide of Cambodian Democracy

Turkey's long-standing Islamist political party. The Refah (Welfare) Party had been seen as a marginal religious organization representing cranky traditionalists, especially backward small-town shopkeepers. The ads, however, Oncu says, put a new face on the Islamist movement, one that was "urban, lit- erate, middle class." Quotations from the Koran were scarce, and Refah's constituents, she observes, "were not the turbaned women and bearded dark men of the imagination, but everyday...

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ing vigilance "lest its dark face reappear."

All of that began to change with the advent of commercial broadcasting in 1990 and a clever 1991 TV ad campaign by Turkey’s long-standing Islamist political party. The Refah (Welfare) Party had been seen as a marginal religious organization representing cranky traditionalists, especially backward small-town shopkeepers. The ads, however, Öncü says, put a new face on the Islamist movement, one that was "urban, literate, middle class." Quotations from the Koran were scarce, and Refah’s constituents, she observes, "were not the turbaned women and bearded dark men of the imagination, but everyday people." The only woman wearing a turban was a student who told the viewers she had been expelled from her university for wearing a headscarf. A voice-over promised that when Refah was in power, no one would face discrimination because of her beliefs and practices.

Today, Öncü says, Islam is everywhere on Turkish TV, "part of the issue-saturated culture of commercial television." (Seven private channels now compete among themselves and with TRT.) Islamic spokesmen appear in TV forums to present "the Islamist viewpoint." News commentators, politicians, and other secular figures advert to ominous global religio-political conspiracies involving Saudi finance capital or Iranian fundamentalism.

Islam is now seen, Öncü says, as "a problem that demands public awareness, encouraging audiences to clarify their own positions and take a stand." Although not the sole factor, Islam’s TV presence undoubtedly contributed to the Refah Party’s stunning showing in last December’s elections: it won 158 seats in the 550-member parliament, more than any other party.


The Suicide of Cambodian Democracy

"Cambodia’s Fading Hopes" by Julio A. Jeldres, in Journal of Democracy (Jan. 1996), 1101 15th St. N.W., Ste. 802, Washington, D.C. 20005.

After almost two decades of terror, repression, and genocide, Cambodia held United Nations–supervised elections in 1993 that were supposed to be a landmark on the road to democracy. Nearly three years later, that destination still seems very far off, reports Jeldres, an Australian who served on the staff of Prince (now King) Norodom Sihanouk from 1981 to 1991.

In the May 1993 elections, the royalist FUNCIN-PEC party—founded by Sihanouk in 1981 to fight the country’s Vietnamese conquerors and now led by one of his sons, Prince Norodom Ranariddh—promised national reconciliation and a battle against corruption, and it scored a major victory. The party won 45 percent of the vote and 58 of the 120 Constituent Assembly seats. The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), successor to the party created by Vietnam’s communist regime to rule as its proxy in Cambodia after the 1978 Vietnamese invasion, finished only a strong second. A new constitution subsequently restored the monarchy.


But the CPP, by threatening civil war, "strong-armed" Ranariddh into a coalition government, with the prince as "first prime minister" and CPP leader Hun Sen as "second prime minister." Much of FUNC-




Reconstruction efforts are under way in Phnom Penh; theseBuddha statues have been made for use in rebuilt temples.




Periodicals 141


INPEC’s public support has since vanished.

The "marriage of convenience" (as the prince described it to his shocked supporters) "played right into the hands of the CPP’s hard-bitten cadres, who control most of the governmental apparatus to this day," Jeldres points out. The "marriage" keeps international aid flowing to the government and gives it international recognition.

In "postcommunist" Cambodia, graft and corruption are barely concealed, Jeldres says. Prince Ranariddh himself reportedly received a $1.8-million small plane from a Sino-Thai businessman suspected of drug trafficking. Many FUNCINPEC officials have learned to imitate the CPP style, making "heavy-handed efforts to stifle critics in the press, parliament, and civil society." Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge—the anti-Vietnamese communists who killed two to three million Cambodians between 1975 and ’78, when they ruled the country—have set up a government-in-exile in western Cambodia and are continuing to wage a guerrilla war.


Jeldres is encouraged by the rise of prodemocracy "groups of students, women, [and] human rights activists." Local elections are scheduled this year and parliamentary balloting is set for 1998. But the Phnom Penh government’s performance has been so poor that Jeldres fears that "a crisis of legitimacy may be brewing."




The Gulag Accounts

"Forced Labour under Stalin: The Archive Revelations" by R. W. Davies, in New Left Review (Nov.–Dec. 1995), 6 Meard St., London, England W1V 3HR.


Ever since the early 1930s, Western Sovietologists have been trying to estimate the number of people imprisoned in the labor camps and colonies of Joseph Stalin’s Gulag (the Russian acronym for the laborcamp system), as well as the number of "excess deaths" in the country resulting from famine, abnormal levels of disease, and executions. Robert Conquest, author of The Great Terror (1968), calculated that nine million people (excluding criminals) were confined in Soviet labor camps and colonies at the end of 1938. He estimated that, between 1930 and ’38, there were 17 million "excess deaths," seven million of them due to the 1933 famine in the Ukraine (which resulted from Stalin’s forced collectivization of the farms and seizure of the grain produced). Estimates by other scholars varied, with Jerry Hough of Duke University going so far as to claim that the deaths in the Great Purge of 1937–39 were "only" in "the 75,000–200,000 range."

The debate is politically loaded. Whether the gruesome numbers are high or low bears on such questions as whether Stalin was more, or less, of a murderous tyrant than Adolf Hitler, and whether American Cold Warriors exaggerated Stalin’s crimes in order to "demonize" the Soviet Union.

R. W. Davies, author of Soviet History in the Gorbachev Revolution (1989), contends that data made available from the Soviet archives in recent years demonstrate that Hough’s figures "are far too low," but also show that Conquest’s overall figures for the 1930s "are far too high."

It appears from the new archival data, Davies says, that some 10–11 million people were killed in the 1930s, directly or indirectly, by the Communists, with the famine of 1933 being the largest single cause. But there is still disagreement, he notes, about how many died in that disaster. On the basis of newly released Soviet data on birth and death registrations, one specialist puts the famine deaths at four to five million. Other scholars, in the belief that many infants were born and died outside the official recognition system, contend that the famine toll may have been as high as eight million.

A "reasonably comprehensive" picture of the Stalinist forced-labor system, with its prisons, labor camps, labor colonies (for those with lesser sentences), and special settlements (for exiles), can now be drawn, Davies writes. The total number of prisoners, he says, was about 2.5 million in 1933,

2.9 million in 1939, 3.3 million in 1941, and nearly 5.5 million in 1953. After Stalin’s death that year, the system began to be dismantled. By 1954, the number in the Gulag had been reduced to four million, and, by 1959, to fewer than one million. Stalinism, if not communism, had begun to come to an end.


142 WQ Spring 1996



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