In the first public ruling-party comments on Sam Rainsy’s return, lawmaker candidate Hun Many, the youngest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, told a specially convened youth rally that the reappearance of the opposition head “doesn’t matter”.
Speaking to some 15,000 ruling-party youth gathered on Koh Pich yesterday, Many, who is the first of his father’s progeny to run for political office and the head of the CPP youth movement, insisted Rainsy’s return would not affect the CPP’s campaign.
Instead, the Kampong Speu Assembly candidate characterised Rainsy’s pardon and subsequent return — engineered by Hun Sen and rubber-stamped by King Norodom Sihamoni — as part of the ruling party’s commitment to democracy.
“I think the CPP will continue to build strong support for the party. The return of Sam Rainsy doesn’t matter. It’s Sam Rainsy’s business,” Many, 31, said.
“The CPP desires to see national reconciliation and a free and fair election in accordance with multiparty democracy and equal rights [for all].”
The rally marked the first major display of Cambodian People’s Party might since opposition icon Rainsy triumphantly returned to the Kingdom on Friday.
Though the crowd could have never been expected to match the roughly 100,000 that turned out for Rainsy’s homecoming after four years in political exile, the daylong event that culminated in a massive concert featuring top headliners made up for what it lacked in numbers with lavishness.
In the hours leading up to Many’s appearance, a sea of blue party flags descended on Koh Pich yesterday afternoon as the CPP cavalry diligently filed in on thousands of scooters and flatbed trucks.
Dozens of roaring luxury motorbikes, along with the usual cavalcade of SUVs, were a clear sign of the sizeable war chest backing the campaign.
The slick and well-oiled party machine was also on display, with minders armed with loudspeakers and walkie-talkies calmly directing various youth contingents into place in front of the stage before Many’s arrival.
Still, with the campaign three weeks in, party youth were visibly tired and the mood remained subdued at the start compared with the wild scenes that greeted Rainsy at the weekend.
Many received only a brief applause from the crowd and thousands of youngsters simply sat on their bikes on various corners of the island throughout proceedings, waiting to ride off for the subsequent procession around town.
Away from the stage, waning energy quickly picked up, however, as the group wound its way toward the concert at Wat Botum park.
In his speech, Many appealed to CPP youth to maintain discipline as the campaign draws to a close and painted a return to civil strife if the ruling party were to lose focus before the election.
“We have to protect the peaceful trees that we have been harvesting for fruit. If we are careless and do not deeply consider our every move … these fruits will be lost in a minute, and our country will plunge into instability and social chaos,” he said.
Many also targeted an unnamed party for adopting a foreign mindset to look at Cambodia, ignoring CPP achievements and attacking the ruling party.
But while Many evinced no concern over the return of the opposition’s leader, one young CPP supporter, Sean Baksaboramey, 16, said that after seeing the massive crowds gathered for Rainsy’s arrival, he was worried about the election results.
“I am concerned about the competition between the CPP and CNRP after I saw how many CNRP supporters came out to greet Rainsy on Friday,” he said.