During a whirlwind visit to Boeung Kak lake yesterday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy declared his party will continue pushing for the UN’s involvement in a review of last month’s election results, which the Cambodia National Rescue Party and election monitors claim was rife with irregularities.
After a rock star reception at the entrance to the Boeung Kak lake community on Monivong Boulevard, Rainsy bounded on foot, Pied Piper-like, to the home of activist Tep Vanny in Village 22, with hundreds trailing him.
It was there he vowed to hold a rally to keep fighting for victory and made a string of promises to supporters.
“Tomorrow at 4pm, we will gather at Freedom Park to hold a public meeting demanding the UN be involved in resolving election issues that have prevented us being declared the winner,” he said. “I call for everyone to join this meeting and support my party in securing victory.”
After rejecting the provisional results of July 28’s national election, the CNRP called for an international review of “irregularities”.
However, it boycotted an investigation over the weekend, citing the National Election Commission’s reluctance to have input from outsiders such as the UN.
Speaking after Rainsy exited Boeung Kak, CNRP lawmaker-elect Ho Vann urged all those who had not been allowed to vote to attend today’s rally.
“This meeting will cover how we recount the ballot and maybe even how we re-vote,” he said.
During Rainsy’s speech – which had the tone of both an election campaign and a victory address – the party president promised villagers he would resolve their land dispute and others across the country “just as soon as the UN declares we have won and I have become prime minister”.
“And we will demand that [imprisoned Boeung Kak activist] Yorm Bopha is released from prison,” he said. “The authorities and the company [Shukaku Inc] have been grabbing land and threatening people. They have been beating them with electric batons, spraying them with water cannons and arresting them. It’s injustice for the women of this community.”
Rainsy added that the CNRP, if it was awarded the election, would take legal action against those responsible for filling in the lake.
"I will find the masterminds who filled in this lake – we will arrest them and send them to jail."
Rainsy wasn’t the only one mobbed on arrival. Residents of varying ages rushed to have their photos taken with lawmakers-elect Mu Sochua and Prince Sisowath Thomico.
Sochua said Boeung Kak was one of many land disputes that had to be solved immediately.
“Re-evaluate the concessions – not just in Phnom Penh, but everywhere. It’s easy to do this. The lake is finished ... but the poor and rich must live together in one city,” she said.
Many land disputes across the Kingdom, including the one at Boeung Kak, have involved companies with links to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Likely contributing to Rainsy’s popularity in the capital was the CNRP’s pre-election pledge to end to land disputes that, according to NGOs, have resulted in the eviction of more than 10 per cent of Phnom Penh since 2000. The party this year gained from five to seven of the city’s 12 National Assembly seats, based on preliminary results.
Voicing support for Rainsy was villager Phan Chhunreth, one of 13 Boeung Kak women imprisoned after a protest last year.
“I hope when Sam Rainsy becomes prime minister, I will receive a land title and live in Boeung Kak in peace,” she said.