With Cambodians abroad largely relying on news telephoned from home, Facebook and hearsay for the results of Sunday’s election, it’s no surprise that the sizeable diaspora was left confused yesterday as to the results of the poll.
“People from Cambodia are the ones that call and tell us. I was still asleep and they called from there to say [the CNRP] are winning. Everybody was calling people over here,” Prom Saunora, a board member of the Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy, said.
Cambodian-Americans, an estimated 250,000 of whom make up the lion’s share of Cambodians who have settled abroad, largely support the opposition, he added, which meant that jubilation quickly gave way to anger when the officials results were released.
“At the beginning, everybody was so excited to know that [the opposition] won the election ... but as time went on and things kept changing, everybody became angrier,” he said. “I am trying to [control them], because they are wanting to demonstrate. I am talking to them so they don’t act prematurely.”
Phatry Derek Pan, 33, the CEO of popular website Khmerican, said many older Cambodians like his parents were struggling to keep updated with accurate news.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion, especially within my parents age group and even within my peer group. I have heard a lot of rumour that has yet to be validated ... by third-party media.”
He added, however, that despite their country’s tumultuous past, many Cambodian-Americans were not worried that violence will break out.
“The reality is, they probably feel that Cambodians are sick and tired of fighting.... They understand it won’t escalate any more than it is now.”
You Horn Chea, president of the Cambodian Association of Victoria, said that Cambodian-Australians, estimated to number about 30,000, also were largely cheering for the opposition.
“Even if the [CNRP] did not win, the result is very encouraging. Some people are still not happy about the result, because they say it is not fair ... but for me, I am quite happy,” he said.
This election, and its controversies, has also stimulated discussion between different generations of the diaspora, said Seda Nak, a 26-year-old from Washington.
“Now, with their energy and senses heightened from news and their parents whispering and sharing misinformed news, discussions have really begun,” she said.
“It took a lot of back and forth with my mum while she was at the temple to convince [her] ... [and] others ... that Sam Rainsy’s party did not win.”