In a fiery speech attended by thousands, opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday vowed that his party would boycott the National Assembly if a thorough investigation of election results is not undertaken and vowed mass demonstrations if preliminary numbers aren’t revised to reflect a Cambodia National Rescue Party win.
“We are determined not to allow someone to steal Khmer people’s success,” screamed a hoarse-sounding Rainsy, just hours before he was set to board a plane to America to attend his daughter’s wedding. “Don’t threaten us. [We] are not afraid. [We] will hold a very big mass demonstration.”
On Saturday, the National Election Committee formally rejected UN involvement in a joint investigation, saying it would be illegal to involve anyone other than the NEC and political parties. Though the government has maintained the involvement of foreign and local monitors as observers of the investigation is allowable, the CNRP has insisted they be involved on a technical level.
Yesterday, Rainsy reiterated that point, saying an investigation with outsiders was the only way forward.
“We do not want to hold a protest. If [the CPP] wants to avoid a demonstration, it must resolve the [problem] properly.”
While early NEC figures appear to confirm the CPP’s claim that it won 68 seats to the CNRP’s 55, the opposition has maintained from the start that its gains were far higher. Last week, the party announced it had won at least 63 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats based on figures from its polling monitors.
Yesterday, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha announced that figure was even higher and claimed the government was well aware.
“At five o’clock [election day], the result was given to me. We won 70 per cent. When they heard CNRP won 70 per cent, they told someone to issue the result as 68 to 55 and they ordered someone to tell NEC to declare according to this result,” he said, adding that they believed more than 70 per cent of armed forces and civil servants had voted for the opposition.
Stressing that there was no option for a coalition, Rainsy also took pains to address claims made repeatedly by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top government officials, stating that – should the party boycott – the government could legally consider their seats abandoned and redistribute them. In a speech on Friday, Hun Sen addressed the legalities and also warned that a boycott would be “going against the King”.
But in truth, retorted Rainsy, the King could never OK a parliament from which scores of members had boycotted.
“Do not tell a lie, no one believes it,” he said. “The King is the king of Khmer people, and if the King imprints a royal seal [on the National Assembly], the King would be the [political] party’s king.”
Party whip Son Chhay told the Post that despite Hun Sen’s threats, it was unlikely the party would follow through in taking seats away from the CNRP and having the King ratify such a body.
“It’s just a threat. You cannot have a parliament made up only of CPP. There’s no way.… Imagine that Cambodia’s parliament consists of 123 solely CPP members. It’s not possible,” Chhay said.
Though the event lasted less than an hour, thousands of supporters streamed in, filling the entirety of Freedom Park and the surrounding streets. Led by Rainsy and Sokha, the crowd frequently broke into chants of “change” and “victory”. Peaceful and jovial though the crowd was, it seemed apparent many were ready to take to the streets should Rainsy give the signal.
“The CPP is a thief and a robber. They stole not only from me, but from many people,” said 60-year-old Meas Chanthavy, who travelled from her home in Takhmao – Hun Sen’s district – to attend the rally. “I am not concerned about [Hun Sen’s threats of instability], because I’ve experienced it since 1998. We’re done with this. I’ll come out and demonstrate if I need to. I’m not afraid.”
The government, for its part, slammed Rainsy’s claims, noting that the party had announced its intention to disregard the results long before the vote was even held.
“No matter what the results were, they wouldn’t respect it,” said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, who stressed, once again, that UN involvement breached the NEC’s own policies.
“It’s been very open and transparent, it’s all out on the table.... [At Saturday’s ballot count], Sam Rainsy was there, Comfrel was there – they could not find a mistake. So instead, they publicly speak out.”
Though Siphan was loath to speak about the possibility of mass demonstrations, he said they would be met “with how the law proscribes”.
Such protests, however, would be viewed with an unfriendly eye, he admitted.
“[Rainsy] is the one that’s boycotting, boycotting everything. So I don’t call this one as a demonstration. This one we no longer call a demonstration. We call it a rebellion.”