New Book Focuses On Cambodia’s Down-To-Earth Tact And Diplomacy – Review


Adolf Hitler once said that “when diplomacy ends, war begins” and it has been a major task for diplomats from Cambodia, a small Southeast Asian country with just 16.33 million people surrounded by much bigger neighbors, to ensure that diplomacy never ends and war never returns to their country.

The gentle Khmer people have suffered a lot and for a long time from the bloody wars caused by big-power conflicts and interests as well as the brutal atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), unlike the glory days of the Khmer Empire that ruled Cambodia from the ninth to the 15th centuries.

Over the past three decades, however, the Cambodian people have enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity, especially since the historic 1991 Paris Peace Accords were signed and Samdech Hun Sen became prime minister in 1985.

So what strategy is required for Cambodia to navigate troubled waters? Down-to-earth tact and diplomacy according to Nambora Hor, the epitome of a smart Cambodian diplomat, in his forthcoming book titled Down-to-Earth Tact and Diplomacy, An Untold Story.

Nambora is currently Cambodian Ambassador to Indonesia and his book is the very first of its kind by a Cambodian diplomat, skillfully setting out theory in down-to-earth ways.

The book, according to Nambora, will be published in December 2018 and in January 2019 will be launched in both Phnom Penh and Jakarta.

Even before it is published, the book has already received a solid endorsement from renowned Indonesian diplomat, thinker and former foreign minister RM Marty Natalegawa.

“A fascinating personal account and reflection of a diplomat’s complex and multi-faceted work. An important read,” Marty said.

Echoing a similar view, University of Connecticut professor and former United Nations diplomat Benny Widyono describes Nambora as a different breed of diplomat who accomplished a great deal in the three continents of Australia, Europe and Africa.

Benny, who worked as a UN Secretary General’s representative from 1994-1997 in Cambodia, writes in the foreword to the book that Nambora’s tactful “down-to-earth” diplomacy is a by-product of his experiences in employing non-conventional methods to deliver expected outcomes. He is amazed at the theory Nambora put into practice, achieving enormous victories in the modern shaping of Cambodian diplomacy within a rigid geopolitical setting.

The new book will be useful for many.

“This book will be very useful for professional diplomats, scholars, academics and university students,” Nambora told this author recently in Jakarta.

Nambora’s fascinating book portrays a complete picture of him — from birth, growth and maturity as a diplomat, and both his conventional and unconventional work.

“Each and every page best explains how contemporary diplomacy has contributed to peace, comprehensive strategic partnerships among states, and the development of world diplomacy on the basis of political and economic profits,” he said.

“If you aim at building peace on earth as a foreign diplomat or world leader, let’s chase your dream by deciphering the essence of modern diplomacy and peace in Down-to-Earth: Tact and Diplomacy, An Untold Story,” Nambora writes in the book.

The book is divided into 11 chapters, namely Chapter 1 Biographical Sketch: Angkorian Birth; Chapter 2 The Anatomy of “Down-to-Earth Tact and Diplomacy: Unconventional Way”; Chapter 3 Twilight Years in Australia; Chapter 4 Bridging Diplomatic Gaps in Europe: Best Practices; Chapter 5 A United and Strong Africa: The Cambodia Mission; Chapter 6 Peace Building: The Heart and Soul of “Down-To-Earth” Tact and Diplomacy; Chapter 7 Indonesia: Torn between two powers The Pancasila Way; Chapter 8 ASEAN Trajectory, Moving Toward or Apart: Milestone challenges; Chapter 9 Personal Reflections on Politics, Diplomacy, Theology and Life; Chapter 10 Down-to-Earth Foundation: Development Diplomacy; and Chapter 11 Conclusion.

Even though he spent just 14 months in Jakarta, Nambora acquired a vast knowledge about Indonesia, its people, culture and state ideology Pancasila. He devotes Chapter 7 especially to Indonesia and its ideology Pancasila (the five principles of belief in one God, a just and civilized humanity, Indonesian unity, democracy under the wise guidance of the people’s representatives and social justice).

“I fell in love with Indonesia’s beauty, culture and its people, who are very tolerant. I am also impressed by Indonesia’s Pancasila ideology,” Nambora said.

Tact and diplomacy come naturally to Nambora, as he was born into a family of diplomats. His father, Hor Nambong, was Cambodia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2016.

Nambora is an adept diplomat who has mastered all the tricks in the art of diplomacy. After graduating from the University of Economics of Budapest, Hungary, in the late 1980s, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1988. During his three decades of distinguished diplomatic service, the jovial diplomat worked as an ambassador in three different continents – Australia and New Zealand from 1999 to 2004, the United Kingdom and Ireland from 2004 to 2013, Ethiopia and the African Union from 2011 to 2013, Switzerland from 2016 to 2017 – and has enriched Cambodia’s relations with these countries.

For example in Chapter 4, the book explains how Nambora, while concurrently working as ambassador to Ireland when he was in London, enriched and enlarged Cambodia’s diplomatic relations with Ireland by engaging Irish networks by drinking beer in pubs.

The 61-year-old Nambora, who is married to Hor Khemtana and has three children, has won several major awards both in Cambodia and outside for his outstanding work. The Australian Committee on Human Rights recognized him as a “Citizen of Humanity” in 2002. The Cambodian government conferred on him the Royal Order of Cambodia – Commander in 2007 and in 2010 he received the Royal Order, Grand Officer title.

The book clearly portrays the importance of diplomacy and tact as effective tools of communication during negotiations. That’s why once Winston S. Churchill said that: “Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.”

Likewise Isaac Newton said: “Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.”
Nambora became successful wherever he was posted by using his down-to-earth personality and several unconventional methods to make more friends in foreign countries and boosting his country’s image.

He is a very frank diplomat who never shies from expressing his views openly. At the same time he has devoted his whole life to working for Cambodia’s peace, stability, territorial integrity,
sovereignty, independence and economic prosperity.

This new book will certainly set a new milestone in the history of Cambodian diplomacy.

Veeramalla Anjaiah

Veeramalla Anjaiah is a Jakarta-based senior journalist and the author of the book “Azerbaijan Seen from Indonesia

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