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

  • Twenty years after Pol Pot died a broken man, his memory looms large

    Two decades have passed, but Mea Chron still stands by Pol Pot. Most days he also stands by the mass murderer’s cremation site, keeping guard in the Khmer Rouge’s last stronghold of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot, the widely reviled despot who spearheaded the

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • ‘Trouble’ foreseen in Khmer New Year almanac

    At 9:12am on Saturday, Cambodia’s devout can expect the arrival of Moha Thorathevey, an angel on a peacock holding a trident in one hand and an auspicious serrated wheel in the other. The angel, who has a liking for water hyacinths, will usher in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the