Thousands of opposition supporters at Freedom Park cheered in a near-ecstatic frenzy yesterday as Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy compared the demonstration to those held by the ruling party with an eye to the bottom line.
“The [Cambodian People’s Party] uses money to pay people to come,” Rainsy shouted into the microphone. “When we have a demonstration, people bring enough money so that we have enough money for 100 more protests.”
On the first of three planned mass CNRP demonstrations, supporters from all walks of life seeking an inquiry into July’s disputed national election results, indeed, showed their solidarity with their pocketbooks yesterday.
CNRP volunteers stationed in different areas of Freedom Park watched over green, metal boxes – all of which were padlocked shut – as people slid their contributions into slits on top.
“I cannot count, because there’s so much,” said volunteer Choun Saream, who stood behind a table, collecting donations under a tent set up a couple of metres from the stage. Individual donations he saw ranged from $1 to $50, he added.
Another volunteer at the tent chimed in that he saw more money donated yesterday than any of the three mass demonstrations at which he worked last month.
A 54-year-old woman wearing a gardening hat lined with an orange CNRP-themed headband who put $10 in the box said her morals obliged her to donate.
“I love justice, I love independence, and I love peace,” the woman, who asked not to be named, said. “So I had to support.”
In addition to financial contributions, supporters like Sok Leang, who owns a store at Olympic Market, donated whatever supplies they could. Leang provided 300 packets of rice and 240 cases of bottled water, she said.
“We donate our property to support the people who participate in the demonstration,” Leang said, adding that her store will remain closed for the duration of the rallies. “We need to find the facts and justice of the national election.”
By yesterday evening, CNRP treasurer Wan Dara had not yet counted the money collected, but opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said they collected about $20,000 in cash donations per day during last month’s demonstrations.
“We don’t even make an appeal [for donations], people just come in and give the money,” Sochua said after the rally yesterday. “It says that the CNRP is their party, we are leading the cause and they are willing to make sacrifices.”