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Int’l trips fuel CNRP machine

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is greeted by supporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from a trip to Europe
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is greeted by supporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from a trip to Europe. Heng Chivoan

Int’l trips fuel CNRP machine

As opposition party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha returned from separate overseas trips yesterday, the party said it had more than enough cash to finance continuous mass demonstrations, with the bulk of funds coming from Cambodians living abroad.

Today’s demonstrations in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which the Cambodia National Rescue Party expects will see upwards of 10,000 protesters, will cost about $30,000, CNRP lawmaker and finance general-director Ky Vandara said yesterday.

The party, he added, had raised some $300,000 to finance rallies and demonstrations since May but declined to give further details.

“Money is a non-issue.… We do not lack any money to hold demonstrations, no matter for how many days we hold them,” he said.

“Both the local and overseas [supporters] have worked together each time to make the demonstrations successful.”

Overseas lobbying trips by Rainsy and Sokha – who returned yesterday from Europe and the US, respectively – frequently feature fundraising dinners and pagoda appearances that can raise tens of thousands of dollars from Cambodian diaspora community. The US-based Cambodia National Rescue Party Foundation, which has representatives in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US, Cambodia and South Korea, is a key part of the opposition’s well-oiled fundraising network.

In late August, the foundation appealed to donors worldwide “to donate as much as you can to help the Cambodian people, who are demanding their votes be counted” through mass demonstrations. A flurry of donations from as low as $100 to as high as $10,000 have in recent weeks directly poured in to the CNRP’s coffers from around the world ahead of today’s protests, according to records on the official party website.

Aside from these public donations, Vandara added yesterday that a number of generals and powerful oknhas were quietly providing funds but declined to name them.

“Not all oknhas are bad. Some oknhas have received the title because of their good efforts in making honest business … and because they love the nation. Most of the generals, too, also love the nation.”

CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said that although overseas donors were very important, the party also raised significant amounts locally. She added that oknhas usually gave small amounts – typically less than $1,000 at a time.

“We don’t want to ask for more than we need. We’d rather ask for a small amount at a time and make it very transparent,” she said.

US-based political analyst Peter Tan Keo said foreign Cambodians had long been the “financial backbone” of the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, which merged to form the CNRP.

“Fundraising within Cambodia isn’t a sustainable practice, as a large majority of supporters make less than a dollar a day,” he said in an email.

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