Tuesday's brawl at Freedom Park and the ensuing charges against opposition members represent a turning point in the political stalemate and a worsening in relations between the two parties ahead of the one-year anniversary of the disputed election on July 28.
In the middle of this, many are asking why opposition leader Sam Rainsy remains abroad – he left for Europe last month – when such upheavals are occurring at home.
The CNRP leader lived for years outside of Cambodia before returning in the 1990s, and often travels to maintain contact with a global network of supporters. His deputy, Kem Sokha, said yesterday that he would be back from this latest excursion “soon”.
Rainsy himself has declined to comment on the violence, referring questions to Sokha.
Yesterday, he said in an email that he was “making arrangements to return”, but did not name a date. When asked again, he said “ASAP”.
It had previously been floated that Rainsy would make a grand return on July 19, the anniversary of his return from exile last year, but he told the Post last week that no such plan existed.
Political analyst Kem Ley said it was “disappointing” that Rainsy has been away for so long and not rushed back to Cambodia after the violence.
“He has just been relaxing in Paris, playing on Facebook and leaving Kem Sokha to do the work. Sam Rainsy’s group seems like more relaxed than the other,” he said. “I think that he must negotiate with Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Kem Sokha also must contact regularly with Sar Kheng for political negotiations.”
Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said it’s Rainsy’s choice, but in times like these, leadership is needed.
“If I were him, I would come back immediately.”