In another whirlwind tour of provincial areas over the weekend, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, again threatened a boycott of parliament and mass demonstrations if their party is not awarded election victory – and warned the government that international intervention would come if the military responded violently.
Rousing passions before today’s planned rally at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, the Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders also vowed in public speeches reminiscent of their election campaigning to reclaim Cambodian territory sold off to private companies.
“People will hold demonstrations, and if the government orders the armed forces to fire on demonstrators, it will be like digging a hole to bury itself in,” Sokha said on one leg of the weekend tour, which took in Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal and Siem Reap provinces.
“The International Criminal Court will send troops to arrest that leader, who will then be convicted.”
The point of the tour, the CNRP leaders said, was the same as the party’s rally planned for today at 4pm – to share information and thank voters for their support.
Mass demonstrations, Rainsy said on Saturday, remain a last resort and are avoidable – as long as its demands are met by the government.
“[We] will not hold demonstrations provided the [CPP] recognises the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s victory – otherwise, we will hold them,” he told villagers in Kandal province.
At Angkor Wat yesterday, where Rainsy pledged before the election to wrest back the temple complex from the “Vietnamese”, the CNRP leader again vowed to reclaim land the government had sold off to “dishonest” private companies.
“All of us are determined to demand the return of Cambodian territory and national property such as forests, lakes and islands,” he said, likely a reference to Koh Tral, a disputed island in the possession of Vietnam.
Wherever the CNRP leaders went over the weekend, huge crowds again turned out to meet them.
In Kandal province’s Leuk Dek district, villagers were asking for exact times and dates for mass demonstrations.
“I’m not afraid. I will take part in demonstrations to demand real justice,” a 70-year-old villager, Yan Yath, said.
The mood was the same in Kampong Thom province’s Baray district, where CNRP supporters who braved the rain to see their leaders told the Post they were simply waiting to be given the word to take to the streets.
“I’m not scared. On behalf of the people of Baray, we want demonstrations. We’re waiting for Mr President [Rainsy] to confirm a specific day for us to take part,” Kiem Sieb, 62, said.
After drumming up support in the provinces, Rainsy and Sokha will turn their sights to the rally – not a mass demonstration, they continue to stress – at Freedom Park today at 4pm.
Rainsy has gone on the record as saying there will be no marching anywhere and the rally will be more like an information session for supporters.
“We will go to meet our voters to whom we are accountable,” he told the Post on Thursday. “It’s different from the election campaign.”
In response to suggestions that the government would order the military to use force against CNRP supporters at such demonstrations, government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that it was actually Rainsy and Sokha who were provoking violence and the government was merely trying to maintain public order.
“The Royal Government does not have any intentions of killing its people,” he said.
When it came to territorial issues, Siphan added, Cambodia was governed by laws that everyone, including the government, had to follow.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL