At branches of electronics shop Hello 4U, the campaign season is in full swing.
The store is rolling out custom-made protective covers for smart phones, laptops and i-Pad screens emblazoned with the visages of Cambodian People’s Party senior leaders. Customers who buy the product can talk to their friends and support the CPP at the same time.
Veng Khyhong, director of Hello 4U, which has four branches in town, said he had no intention of creating a high-selling product when he dreamed up the idea.
“I just want to show my support to the [ruling] party and I designed it to target clients who have the same view as mine,” Khyhong said. “My family members are CPP members, and they support me on this.”
The design is virtually ubiquitous, gracing billboards and offices all over the country. It features the three faces, in order from left to right, of Senate President Chea Sim, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, all under a brightly-coloured CPP logo.
Khyhong is charging $5 and $6, the same as the non-CPP version. The move was clearly a wise one financially. In four months, he’s sold up to 6,400 ruling party covers. The majority of his clients, he said, have been government officials.
With July’s national elections looming, the mix of private enterprise and politics is nothing new, said Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker.
He said private companies typically flaunt one product with a party logo because they think having CPP support will help their business expand.
“It does not mean all users are truly satisfied with the current leading system,” Chhay said. “Many are doing it because of the power of the ruling party, rather than truly loving it.”
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said business owners have the right to support any party they want by selling items that tilt towards their political preference. But he said the idea could have a negative impact on competition.
“If we are truly businessmen, we should be neutral and target all kinds of clients,” Panha said. “If we run a business and target only CPP members, others who are from another party will not buy our product.”