Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - At border, Rainsy plays old tune

At border, Rainsy plays old tune

Thousands of CNRP supporters attend a political rally led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy at Svay Rieng province’s Independence Monument
Thousands of CNRP supporters attend a political rally led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy at Svay Rieng province’s Independence Monument. VIREAK MAI

At border, Rainsy plays old tune

Sam Rainsy has made his triumphant return to Svay Rieng, the province where he was once convicted on charges of inciting racial discrimination, and where yesterday he doubled down on the anti-Vietnamese tough talk that has long been a mainstay of his rhetoric.

Rainsy, along with two others, was found guilty by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court in early 2010 on a handful of charges — including racial incitement — for his involvement in uprooting border de­marcation posts that he maintained Vietnam had been planted on Cambodian soil.

In a speech to supporters yesterday, Rainsy seemingly picked up where he left off.

“We will usher in a new era in Cambodian history to write a new page on the protection of its territorial integrity,” he said.

“Many Yuons have come. They move their border posts close into our territory,” he continued, using a sometimes-derogatory term for the Vietnamese.

“I pity Khmers very much. They have lost their farmland, because Yuons are always coming in, and the authorities do not protect their fellow Khmers at all, but protect the invading Yuons. Now they have brought Yuons to vote for Hun Sen, so Khmers should vote for Sam Rainsy to protect our territory.”

Speaking next to a car that held farmer Meas Srey — one of Rainsy’s co-defendants in the border-post case who spent nearly 10 months in jail — Rainsy questioned the validity of his conviction.

“The Yuon authorities set up demarcation markers on [Meas Srey’s] land that dates back to her ancestors, and when she joined us to pull them out, she was imprisoned,” he said. “How about Chhouk Bandith? The guy shot and injured three female workers and gets away with it instead.”

Rainsy never served any jail time on his convictions, and has spent most of the last four years in self-exile in France.

CNRP supporter Has Say, 75, said Rainsy’s stance on Vietnam had particular resonance with him. “He dares to fight against Yuons, and he has seized the land from Yuons for Cambodians,” he said.

“At my house the demarcation markers have been moving closer to my house, and if I continue to support the [Cambodian People’s Party] I will lose both the house and the land.”

However, Kao Phorn — one of the many CPP supporters dancing and blaring loud music near Rainsy’s rally — said that Rainsy had “only empty promises”.

Border committee president Var Kimhong also dismissed Rainsy’s claims of Vietnamese encroachment as merely election propaganda.

“If he says we’ve lost [land] anywhere, point it out and I will go down to see whether or not it’s been lost,” he said. “Don’t say [this] for the votes.”

But according to political analyst Lao Mong Hay, votes are precisely what Rainsy stands to gain by keeping up his anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, which plays to the concerns of a sizeable segment of Cambodians.

“People have been concerned about the continued influx of Vietnamese nationals into their country.… Not all [voters], but many,” he said, adding that the subject rarely entered the public discourse. “They talk in private — a lot.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

MOST VIEWED

  • South Korea’s first lady brings hope to ill boy

    South Korea’s first lady Kim Keon-hee – wife of current president of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol – met with a 14-year-boy with congenital heart disease during her trip to the Kingdom for the ASEAN Summit. After their meeting it was announced that the

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol