I am by no means as politically aware, or at least aware as I am sure I should be.
I attempt to keep up on the daily global news: I try to follow the crime cases, listen to the debates, and read about the saddening, interesting, terrifying, sometimes anger-inducing, sometimes exciting events that occur daily from Syria to Seattle.
Recently though, as I find myself in the midst of elections in Phnom Penh, Cambodia- I feel like I’m experiencing-as an outsider-somewhat of an inside look at what will be a pivotal part of Cambodia’s history.
In short- leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, had up until this past Friday July 19th been in France, in self-exile since 2009 o avoid serving eleven years in jail on charges considered politically motivated as charged by Hun Sen, current Prime Minister. For unknown reasons, he was granted pardon to return to the country-strangely just over a week before elections and on the day of Hun Sen’s father’s death.
“Tens of thousands lined the streets outside Phnom Penh International Airport this morning, offering a hero’s welcome to opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, whose return ended nearly four years of self-imposed exile in France.” (Source: The Phnom Penh Post)
Let me note that in June, “Talk of the country descending into civil war in the run-up to July’s national election continued Monday as Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated that an election victory for the opposition would ignite nationwide violence that would spill over into neighboring Vietnam.” (Source: The Cambodia Daily)
Hun Sen cautioned “I have real indicators showing that war will take place if these guys are elected…There will be both an internal war and external war, especially a war with Vietnam.” (Source: The Cambodia Daily)
Let’s all take a moment to think why these civil wars would ignite? I don’t think we need much time to figure it out.
Yesterday while out running errands after a meeting with Natalie, we were caught for an hour in traffic due to parades for the political parties. First, one for CPP-Cambodia People’s Party, and the second, for Sam Rainsy and the Cambodia National Rescue Party. I wish I’d gotten video of the CPP Parade, full of Lexuses with flags attached to the antennae, wan faces paid to be drive to recorded cheers played through stereos hitched to the backs of motos. It would be interesting to compare to the second parade which I’ve posted in the video above. In Rainsy’s parade were faces, passionate and fervent-not paid or bribed to partake in the parade but doing so yelling “SEVEN!” or “Prahm pi!” (the number of Rainsy’s party) with enthusiasm, exhilaration, and hope- the sounds of change and hope. I was overwhelmed and filled with pride as we sat atop a moto in gridlocked traffic as these young adults moved so passionately for something they seem to want so greatly.
It’s thrilling to be in the midst of the change that is occurring. Whether changes are made in the political party or not, there is imminent doubt that all will end well. As Ministry of Education staffer Le Hour, 32, told the Post, “it’s time for a change. In the office, I’m CPP, but I don’t really support their policies.”
Asked if he thought the CNRP now stood a chance in light of Rainsy’s return, he expressed optimism, with a caveat.
“If the election is free and fair, he will win.” (Source: The Phnom Penh Post)
Two weeks ago, United States lawmakers asked that aid to Cambodia be cut unless the polls were free and fair, but it’s difficult to know how they can gauge “fairness” at this point in the elections, of the country in general.
What will change, whether the leader does or not, is the outlook on the possibility and ability of speaking out and acting on belief instead of…well, dictatorship. While I’m just an outsider, an onlooker in this country-I feel lucky to witness this time. I won’t write too much of anything myself regarding the elections, Cambodia’s current political state, or who is running the country-but instead share articles that have been composed by those actually qualified to do so.
Real News Writers: Please let me know if I’ve written any of the above statement incorrectly.