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.
Hero’s Welcome for Returning Rainsy
Gunshot fired through opposition headquarter’s window
Hun Sen Warns of ‘War’ if He Loses Election
‘We are legion’: Anonymous hackers target the Kingdom
Thousands cheer return of exiled opposition leader
Supporters Rally as Rainsy Returns, Vows Change
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy returns to Cambodia
Cambodia’s Sam Rainsy Returns to Cheers Before Vote
Real News Writers: Please let me know if I’ve written any of the above statement incorrectly.
OK, Here’s the problem with Rainsy & pals. They are xenophobic anti-Vietnamese bigots who employ a lot of crude nationalist sentiment. Kem Sokha actually stirred up a crowd to violence a while back and they lynched 4 Vietnamese bystanders. Right now they are claiming that the CPP is registering illegal Vietnamese immigrants to vote in the election, it’s a running conspiracy theory (straight from the GOP playbook.) Hun Sen and the CPP are kleptocratic tyrants and pretty terrible. I just don’t believe that Rainsy’s party is much better and represents actual change when they rely so heavily on demonizing the “Dirty Yuons” and Hun Sen’s history of ties to Vietnam. There are crowd chants at the Rainsy demonstrations that are anti-Vietnamese and you likely heard some as you passed by, unknowingly. Be very wary of the opposition just as you should be of the government and ruling party. None of them have clean hands. Final word of advice: as a barang you should stay out of Cambodian politics entirely unless you’re working for an NGO or the UN in some capacity towards building civil society or something, it’s too easy to get in over your head or offend people.
I appreciate your feedback on this post, it’s important that I’m informed on all levels, with information both correct and incorrect-just to know that these statements or thoughts are even floating about. I’m not sure what’s right, wrong, or if there even is a right or wrong when it comes to elections and politics, this one in particular.
Basically, this posting was merely to show my support for a generation pushing for change. If they’re willing to step outside of what may be considered “safe” for their beliefs, I see progress. That’s not political-just me being happy for a country who has lost a generation and is growing quickly. I feel lucky to just be here. I’m in no way involved in politics as mentioned above, but hey-people are always going to get offended aren’t they? Maybe I’ll get the boot and just have to write somewhat blindly back in the States.
Thanks though, Hunk Winkleton, for your take on this post and your honest feedback; it’s a wild, wild Southeast Asia we live in, isn’t it?