[Published by the Cambodia Daily on 1 August 2016.]
Cambodians who know history will be familiar with “the white man’s burden” and the “mission civilisatrice”. These euphemisms for colonialists imposing their will on the colonised are no longer much used, but the arrogance they express is still with us, and even growing.
Witness the remarks of Australia’s former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, as quoted in the Daily on Saturday: “… I cut Hun Sen so much slack …”.
The phrase “cutting slack” may originate from barrel making, but today Australians use the phrase mainly to describe training dogs or horses – “cutting the slack” of the rope as the animal learns to do what it is told without being physically constrained.
The person cutting the slack is in a position of control, deciding how much freedom of movement an animal – or a subordinate human being – might be allowed.
That is obviously how Evans regards his relationship with the Cambodian government: I told them what to do but they’re not doing it!