Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hero's welcome for returning Rainsy

Hero's welcome for returning Rainsy

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha
Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy (center) and deputy president Kem Sokha (left) greet supporters outside Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday morning. KARA FOX

Hero's welcome for returning Rainsy

Tens of thousands lined the streets outside Phnom Penh International Airport this morning, offering a hero’s welcome to opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, whose return ended nearly four years of self-imposed exile in France.

As he emerged from the gate arm-in-arm with his Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha, a scream went up from the crowd.

“I have returned to rescue us”, Rainsy shouted before the truck carrying the duo began its slow trip amid the throng of supporters lining both sides of Russian Boulevard.

Rainsy’s return comes one week after the granting of a royal pardon requested by Prime Minister Hun Sen and signed shortly thereafter by King Norodom Sihamoni. The longtime face of the opposition had faced a prison term of 11 years on charges ranging from defamation to incitement.

As this morning’s convoy wound its way down the street toward a planned rally at Freedom Park, cars with loudspeakers followed, riling up the crowd.

“Change or no change?” a man shouted over a loudspeaker.

“Change!” the crowd screamed in response before launching into a sustained chant of “Sam Rainsy! Kem Sokha!”

“It’s time for a change,” Ministry of Education staffer Le Hour, 32, told the Post amid the crowd. “In the office, I’m CPP, but I don’t really support their policies.”

Asked if he thought the CNRP now stood a chance in light of Rainsy’s return, he expressed optimism, with a caveat.

“If the election is free and fair, he will win.”

MOST VIEWED

  • EU parliament’s 13-point vote to decide on possible sanctions

    The European Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on a 13-point resolution on Cambodia – which includes a call for the treason charges against bailed opposition leader Kem Sokha to be dropped – a threat that could see the EU enforce a range of sanctions against

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey