It was a firey week here in Siem Reap with the anticipation for the July 28th elections. Campaigners in the hundreds took to the streets of Siem Reap all week honking their horns and blaring election noise on their loud speakers.
Although the election results are obviously in favor of the CPP, it is an important election in Cambodia. It was only a few months ago that President Barack Obama was in Cambodia. Obama became the first ever U.S. president to visit Cambodia. During his visit he emphasized his concerns over the Cambodian leader’s poor democratic leadership model and the country’s worsening human rights abuses. Prime Minister Hun Sen is Asia’s longest-serving prime minister, ruling for 28 years.
The US and other countries had said the exclusion of Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy would call into question the polls’ legitimacy in Cambodia’s General Election. Last week the Government gave a royal pardon to the exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Upon arrival he received a hero’s welcome with thousands of cheering supporters. The US welcomed Cambodia’s decision to pardon Sam Rainsy earlier this month, with the State Department urging Phnom Penh “to allow for his meaningful and unfettered participation in the elections”.
“I have come home to rescue the country.” Rainsy told the crowd gathered at Phnom Penh’s airport after kneeling to kiss the ground. Supporters shouted, “We Want change!”
As the main challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Rainsy has been barred from the elections. His application had been rejected to stand against Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“If I can’t participate, after the elections all the Cambodian people will protest and the whole international community will condemn the result and regard this as a sham election,” Sam Rainsy was quoted as saying.
Reports of violence today over missing names. Rocks were also being lobbed despite police presence. Military trucks were reported to have been deployed, and water cannon trucks have been assembled on the streets of Phnom Penh. A power outage here in Siem Reap gave a boost to the frenzy as well.
Tonight Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen call for calm after 2 security forces trucks destroyed by angry mob. Sam Rainsy also said in a press conference tonight “We want rule of law, we do not want chaos”.
From what we’re hearing on the ground, it’s quite certain the CPP will win the general election.
It’s a tense weekend in Cambodia, but for the most part, things are as usual. Tourism is still bustling and the sun setting over the beautiful temples of Angkor are always mesmerizing.