Robert Carmichael October 24, 2013
PHNOM PENH — Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Cambodia's capital this week calling for an independent probe of alleged election fraud, and for the United States and Britain, among other countries, to weigh in on the post-election deadlock. Protesters have come to the capital from all parts of the country.
The three-day rally in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park was called by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP.
Protesters want an independent investigation into the bitterly contested July ballot, and continue to stress their opposition to the newly formed government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which they maintain is illegal.
On Thursday, thousands more marched to the embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom to deliver letters asking those countries to get involved in resolving the political impasse.
A man from Kampong Speu province in central Cambodia said he lost his land to a well-connected family, and the courts then failed him. He said the country needed leaders that people can trust.
He said, “We are here because all of us want a leader who can help the people in Cambodia, an honest person who does not support the dishonest people.”
Many at the rally said they have had enough of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rule. While that sentiment is expected at an opposition rally, expressing such thoughts publicly just five years ago would have been unthinkable. Now it is commonplace.
An Choy, 58, travelled from Mondolkiri province in the northeast. Until recently, he said, his district had forests and natural resources such as gold. Not any longer.
He said, “All the gold and the trees and the forests in my area are now gone - in Chong Plas commune and Khao Seima district. And in another area of Mondolkiri province they will be gone soon. And that’s all because of the government."
People like An Choy, Ruon Sambath and Kim San - farmers in their 50s and 60s - have long been the bedrock of support for the ruling party. But after years in power, and mounting accusations of bad governance, there are growing signs that the CPP’s rural support base appears to be eroding.