Just days before the National Election, more than 300 ethnic-minority villagers donned opposition party hats, shirts and flags during their first-ever CNRP rally in Ratanakkiri’s Banlung town yesterday.
According to Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, disputes with concessionaires and loss of natural resources to the country’s elite are some of the reasons the villagers have begun to support the opposition, despite heavy persuasion from the ruling party and recent defectors.
“They support the CNRP because they are losing farmland, forests and other natural resources to Vietnamese companies, the rich, powerful and untouchable from the CPP,” Thy said.
CPP lawmaker Bou Lam, who is almost certain to win the province’s single seat again come Sunday, insisted such issues were merely fabricated.
“It is just a rumour, not true. It was created to gain political support only,” Lam said, adding that only a small portion of the population supports the CNRP, while the CPP has many followers.
During the 2008 election, provincial opposition party chief Kong Chan defected to the ruling party, while the CNRP’s top lawmaker candidate, Rin Kanha, defected last month.
Seng Nhang, chief of Pate commune in O’Yadav district, said Kanha had been campaigning for the CPP, attempting to urge members of his commune to defect with him.
“Villagers did not listen to his persuasion, some of them left his meeting,” Nhang said.
“Villagers do not believe him. Before he said good things about CNRP; now he speaks ill of CNRP and says good things about the CPP.”
Kanha claimed yesterday that many were not aware of his defection and he is uncertain how many have followed in his footsteps.
“I do not know yet how many will come with me, but it depends whether they are awakened and alert or not,” Kanha said.