As opposition leader Sam Rainsy began a two-week overseas tour yesterday in the hopes of drumming up support, analysts expressed doubts his efforts to have the Cambodian government branded “illegitimate” would be fruitful.
Rainsy left Monday night on a trip to Europe and the United States, leaving Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha to build support at home for the party’s planned mass protest on October 23.
Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the trip was designed to put pressure on the Cambodian People’s Party to accept the CNRP’s 10-point slate of reforms, adopted at a “People’s Congress” on Sunday.
“He will meet with influential politicians … to push for their support for a political resolution, because the [government] … is unconstitutional,” he said.
CNRP whip Son Chhay said the party would be taking to the provinces in the interim, aiming to gather “at least one million thumbprints” from supporters.
These petitions will be presented to the United Nations and a host of foreign embassies on October 23 – the 22nd anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements.
“The government seems to believe that our demands will go away because people [were just] excited. And people will forget about it,” he said.
“We want to show them that this not the case.”
Rainsy’s trip will include stops in Paris, the European Parliament in Brussels, London, the US State Department and the UN headquarters in New York, Chhay added.
But Ou Virak, president at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the party should be focusing on negotiations at home.
“I think going to the UN and asking the UN to vacate Cambodia’s seat is certainly unrealistic. If his intention is to embarrass Hun Sen and the CPP, I think he will fail,” he said.
The poor timing of Rainsy’s trip – coinciding as it does with the US government shutdown – would “make little difference anyway”, Virak added.
“That’s the sad thing. I think Cambodia is down on the priority list of countries for the US.”
US embassy spokesman Sean Mcintosh yesterday directed queries about Rainsy’s trip to the CNRP.
Peter Tan Keo, founder of think tank Global Strategy Asia, said Rainsy’s overseas efforts would likely fall on “deaf ears”.
“Each day the CNRP doesn’t show up to work, the further the CPP inches forward with its own political agenda,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay, meanwhile, was more optimistic about Rainsy’s chances of garnering support.
“It depends on whether [he can convince them] that irregularities were to such an extent that there were serious violations of [Cambodians’] right to vote,” he said.
“[Then] a reference to the Paris Peace Agreements can be made in which there is a provision saying that in cases of serious [human rights violations] any state signatory can request the UN to intervene.”
Separately, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua wrote in a blog post on Monday that she and Rainsy met with an unidentified “European diplomat” who she later said was based outside of the country.
“I was very amazed by his lack of understanding of our strategy to get our demands met. His reasoning is that we should be taking our seats in Parliament,” she writes.
CNRP leaders on Sunday also called on their supporters to be ready to take part in a nationwide strike that party officials have said could take place after October 23.
Although a date has yet to be set, market vendors in the capital yesterday said they would stop work immediately at the CNRP’s request.
“I can close my shop. It doesn’t matter for how many days or months.… If we only think of selling, what will our nation become?” Doeun Lun, an O’Russey market vendor said.
Kuy Hay, a 54-year-old vendor at Boeung Tompun market, summed up the feelings of many.
“If we do not sacrifice at this time, we will lose a lot more than this [next time].”