From Scientific Communism to Liberalism

 Impression during my trip to join the 50th Anniversary of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Germany 

During a meeting session with the Free Democratic Party in its HQ in Berlin

2008 was a great year for the foundation since it was the year 50 of its standing for democracy, human rights, rule of law, market economy and for freedom. Thus, the foundation organized a series of festival activities in Germany and abroad to celebrate this special event. In Germany, there were the Festakt in the old German Bundestag in Bonn, the international conference in Berlin and the Tag der offenen Tür in the historic headquarter (Truman House) in Potsdam. Last but not least, the conference of FNF staff working for the programs outside Germany.

 I was fortunate to be on the list of invitee to join these important events because of two main reasons: being of more than ten years involvement with the foundation as local staff and speaks German.

 I arrived in Berlin on 20 May 2008, just few hours before the official dinner reception of the international conference in Tempelhof airport. The first silly question came to my mind when I looked at the program: why do we have the conference at the airport? Normally, we used to have the kind of conferences in five stars hotel. Even the bus driver was asking the same question to us when he came to pick us at the hotel am Griebnitzsee in Potsdam. What? Conference at the airport? Are you sure where you are going to?

Photo taken in 2008 at the same place where I stood 23 years ago

 When we arrived at airport my question was partly answered. I have read the brochure at the airport about the historic event such as “Luftbrücke” (Air Bridge) which was occurred in the late 1948-49 in order to keep (West)Berlin alive by the allied forces. Overnight, the Soviets blockaded the transport routes to Berlin and the people in Berlin could be saved and supplied with basic food, coal and other materials by airplane only. Tempelhof airport was symbolic for fighting for “freedom”. That is why the organizer chose this historic building as venue to accommodate our international conference to mark its 50th anniversary from 20-21 May 2008. During this one and half day conference I had opportunities to meet many old friends in and outside the foundation again and got in contact with some participants from many countries. The content was quite interesting. The speakers were well-chosen. The participants came from many parts of the world. The place is quite amazing to me since I, myself, like flying and dreamt to become a pilot when I was young. I did observe the plane took of and landing while at the same time listening to the speakers talking about challenges and chance for fighting for change, for democracy and for freedom around the world.

 The next days, I enjoyed participating in the official reception in the HQ in the evening of 22 May and the conference from 23-27 May in hotel am Griebnitzsee. I did enjoyed most of the evening programs of the “Tag der offenen Tür”. The political content was very good, the entertainment, the food and beverage (especially German Beer), the fire work and the people were excellent. I am proud to be part of it and to be one among them. I did like the speech of Dr. Guido Westerwelle and his rhetoric. I am convinced that he is a sovereign FDP leader and will be able to bring the party forward in the next national election in 2009. I had a chance to shake hands with Dr. Westerwelle and Dr. Wolfgang Gehardt. When I did present myself to Dr. Wolfgang Gehardt, the Chairman of our foundation, that I come from Cambodia and have been working for the foundation since twelve years he replied to me: “Sam Rainsy is very good”. I replied to him “The foundation is very good too”.

 The Auβlandsmitarbeiterkonferenz (AMK) was organized from 23-27 May 2008. It was another highlight of the events. The conference was designed for all expatriates of the foundation working abroad, the responsible units of the IP (International Politics) department and some of the local staff. The objectives of AMK were to discuss about:

1. New orientation of the foundation

2. New focal issues of the foundation

3. New challenges and new chances for the FNF

 I understood that the last AMKs were organized in 1991, 1997 and 2002. During the five days conference I did not feel bored at all as it seems to be. Why? The program was well thought and colorful organized. The speakers were very good. The exchange of project experiences session was short, but we can look at intranet and our website for more information. The interaction with politicians (beside the press conference in the FDP HQ) was also short, but interesting. Last but not least, the political Kabarett with Mr. Manfred Richter, the treasurer of our foundation and his partner and the shift tour around Potsdam sees were excellent. Through the AMK, I got to know more about the vision and the strategies of the foundation, its board members, its departments’ leaders, its’ expatriate staff, its donors and its partners. I got also opportunities to talk to Mr. Rolf Berndt, Executive Board Member of the Foundation and Mr. Harald Klein, Head of IP department. It was also amazing to meet Dr. Arndt Kummerlöve, my old boss Uwe Johannen, Dr. Dieter Zumpfort, Dr. Peter Traub, Dr. Wolfgang Sachsenröder and Mrs. Bettina Solinger, and other old friends. They are all very friendly and supportive people.

Khim Sophanna-photo taken in 1985 at Brandenburger Tor in Berlin

 At the end of the official conference I took some days to privately visit my friends living in Berlin and Munich. I took the opportunity to visit the Brandenburger Tor again and make a picture in front of it. I did reflect back into the past, when I came to East-Germany in 1984 as a government scholarship holder to study “Scientific Communism” at the Karl-Marx University of Leipzig. Cambodia used to be a “socialist country”. One could apply to study what he/she wished to, but he/she must study the subject what the state wanted you to. In my case, I applied for three subjects: electronics, physic and food processing. To my full surprise, I was appointed to study Marxism and Leninism, the subject I never dreamt of. However, since I wanted to open my horizons, I went to the former German Democratic Republic with the hope to change my study subject while being there.

Cambodian students studied in Leipzig, former GDR, in the 80th

It was bluntly rejected by the Cambodian embassy in (East) Berlin. I was going to finish my study when the Berlin wall was falling down. As consequence, my subject was abolished and I was “re-educated” and got my degree in political sciences in 1992. After returning home in early April 1996 I signed the working contract to work in our liberal political foundation on 15 June 1996. An interesting life journey: study scientific communism in the 80th and currenlty still working to promote liberalism in Cambodia.

Mr. Uwe Johannen, a guide, me, Dr. Zumpfort and Dr. Weckbecker in December 1996 in Siem Reap

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