The test can be twofold.
Firstly, it can be a test for a country-wide social harmony and internal unity among Khmer politicians, meaning the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and other law-abiding political parties.
How committed they are towards the common cause for peace and stability? Would they fight each other to compete for power at the expense of peace and stability?
Unfortunately, we are not sure yet whether these questions have disappeared from Cambodian domestic political scene.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has done a great job in earning peace for Cambodia, and he has tried his best to ensure that power transition will be peaceful, orderly and calm.
One must accept the fact that, never in Cambodia’s modern history that power changed hand without bloodshed.
So, this important historical juncture probably from 2023 to 2028 will be the legacy for both Prime Minister Hun Sen, and future Prime Minister Hun Manet, to make sure that it would be the first power transition without bloodshed in Cambodia’s modern history.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s strong legacy and great achievements can also be a tremendous pressure for the next generations. To ensure a solid political supporting base, the future generations need to build their own achievements.
They need to ask themselves what kind of legacies they intend to make on top of the legacies and achievements made by previous generations? How and what scores they can make in the eyes of Cambodian voters?
Voters are hard to please. When people don’t have roads, they ask for paved roads. When people have paved roads, they ask for asphalt or concrete roads.
The demands never end.
The next generations need to shoulder rather heavy responsibility as Prime Minister Hun Sen already made clear that if the next generations would do anything to damage the 40-years achievements of CPP and Cambodia, he will immediately resume the government because it is allowable within the parliamentary democracy system that the winning party has the power to decide on who should be the prime minister.
Everyone, probably even beyond the CPP’s circle, accepts that Cambodia’s leadership elites are united by the charisma and popularity of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Another test is related with external factors.
External factors can contribute to stirring political instabilities in Cambodia.
For instance, it is observed that there is a tendency that neighboring countries often try to shift their domestic political disputes towards border issues during sensitive periods. This is like pouring gasoline over nationalistic flame that is quite easy to be ignited for people in the Mekong region owing to the nature of incomplete border demarcations.
Another issue is the over-internationalization of Cambodian politics frequently by the US, the EU, and sometimes by Australia.
While there is no international law that allows such arrogant interference, they made it sounds like the whole international community is the judge of Cambodia’s election.
But as a matter of fact, they are just up to 30 loud-speaking countries out of the 193-UN members who like to use economic and political tools to coerce smaller states to toes their lines in the ongoing rivalry against China.
They make it sounds like democracy and human rights are the most important values to them but as a matter of fact, such internationalization occurs against only Cambodia but not against Communist states that are likely to go to war with China or infamous totalitarian rich states that have money to buy their weapons.
Such internationalization of politics through economic and political coercion can be done against weak states that do not have power to fight back.
So, to simplify, the next generation leadership must face dual challenges: How to maintain social harmony and internal unity during the transition period? And how to manage external negative factors to avoid bad implications for Cambodia’s hard-earned peace and stability?
As much as we need to create social harmony within Cambodian politics, we also need true friends that can help support Cambodia through peaceful and stable power transition, which would be the first time in Cambodian modern history.
Cambodian politicians and the so-called friends of Cambodia must support this nation at this important juncture of history from 2023 to 2028, and don’t use Cambodian people’s blood to write your names in another dark history of Cambodia, again. Domestically we don’t want another Pol Pot. Externally we don’t want another Henry Kissinger.
We have enough history to learn from, and all stakeholders, Cambodians and foreigners alike, need to learn from past historical mistakes. And whatever they do, they need to bear in mind of Cambodia’s long-term interest that puts peace and stability for the whole community first.
Don’t take pride in breaking Cambodia.
Take pride in supporting Cambodia’s peace and stability in this important historical juncture.
To all foreigners, look at Cambodia and Cambodian people in the caring eyes, not in the vengeful eyes. We have done nothing to hurt you and your people for you to hurt us and our peace. We have not killed a soul overseas to be killed, bombed and maimed in our motherland.
All must act with responsibility to peace.