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Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy
Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy greets supporters at a political rally in Kampong Speu province. HENG CHIVOAN

Return sparks CNRP

Less than 24 hours after landing in Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy hit the campaign trail this weekend, delivering speeches across Kampong Speu, Takeo and Kampot provinces on Saturday and yesterday as part of his whirlwind, 15-province tour before Sunday’s ballot.

Speaking in Kampot yesterday, Rainsy urged voters of all political stripes to throw their votes behind the opposition come July 28.

“I would like to appeal to all supporters from all political parties, if you care about our nation ... we have to hold hands to find ways to rescue our nation,” he said, adding that the time for quarrelling had passed.

His deputy, Kem Sokha, meanwhile, asked that voters monitor polling stations come Sunday and fight back should they spot those from other villages voting.

“If you see anyone who doesn’t live in your village but votes in your village, please, all of you, shout loudly in order not to allow them to vote. If you finish voting, please do not go home, stay until 3pm to wait for ballot counting,” he said.

“Please watch the ballot boxes to make sure they don’t cheat us. If you do, the CNRP will win 100 per cent.”

In speeches delivered to thousands of screaming supporters across districts throughout the CPP stronghold of Kampong Speu on Saturday, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president and his deputy repeatedly vowed to clean up the government.

“I would like to appeal to all Cambodians who love the nation, who love justice, who are sympathetic to the victims, poor people and weak people, who were badly treated by land grabs and home grabs, to join together to save the nation,” he said, speaking at a market in Chbar Mon.

Standing on a truck bed, microphone in hand, Rainsy addressed vendors outside of Kampong Speu market, criticising Prime Minister Hun Sen for corruption, the destruction of natural resources and the influx of illegal Vietnamese immigrants.

An estimated 3,000 supporters gathered outside the CNRP offices early Saturday morning, packing the roads as they awaited Rainsy’s arrival; at least one supporter fainted amid the chaos.

“If we are not careful, Cambodia will become a Vietnam, Cambodia will become Kampuchea Krom, we will be a province under control of Vietnam. The current leader is really corrupt, so please, all compatriots, make a change and have a clean leader, so that our country will be just and can develop like other developed countries,” Rainsy told the crowd.

“All compatriots – this is the last opportunity, if we don’t rescue our nation, four or five years more is too late, Cambodia will be full of Vietnamese, we will become slaves of Vietnam.”

On Friday, Rainsy returned after nearly four years of self-exile following the issuance of a Royal pardon overturning his 11-year prison sentence.

Speaking to supporters Saturday, Rainsy stressed that he had never been guilty and that the pardon – which was ordered by Hun Sen – was simply the righting of a wrong.

Perched on a motorbike, listening to the speech, 31-year-old Nov Sokunthen said she believed the party would install a better pension system and increase the wages of garment workers like herself.

“I am really excited today, I hope our family will benefit from the CNRP if they win,” the widowed mother of two said, adding that she alone from her village had braved the CPP-dominated local authorities to come out.

“As of this time, there is nothing more to be afraid of from the CPP. I stopped fearing them. Even if they threaten, I will not be afraid anymore.”

Running up to shake the hand of Rainsy as he greeted supporters along National Road 4, a 35-year-old who ran a taxi van with her husband said she hoped gas prices and toll fares would drop if the opposition won.

“Our business is not really good, because we spend a lot on tolls and petrol,” said Hong Sopheaktra.

After visiting several other districts, the rally stopped at Phsar Thnal Toteung, at the border of Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces. As they arrived, a group of ruling-party supporters pulled in after them, playing music over the sound of his speeches. With little hesitation, Rainsy disembarked and began walking around the market, greeting vendors personally.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, who is also a ruling-party spokesman, said Rainsy’s claims were little more than bluster.

“We have no concern over the CNRP’s claim. It is like a wave at the surface of the ocean, but deep down is the CPP’s force,” Kanharith said yesterday, speaking of the apparent show of support.

He also defended the government’s track record on cracking down on corruption, noting that “we already have a law against corruption … all high-ranking officials must declare their assets; we publicise the fees of most public services. This is a starting point for a state of law,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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