Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy pardon, speech fires up crowd

Rainsy pardon, speech fires up crowd

Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters listen to opposition leader Sam Rainsy speak via video conference
Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters listen to opposition leader Sam Rainsy speak via video conference at a campaign rally in Takmao, Kandal province on Friday. The self-exiled CNRP president announced his return to the Kingdom after receiving a Royal pardon earlier in the day. HENG CHIVOAN

Rainsy pardon, speech fires up crowd

AMID what was probably the most electric atmosphere of the 2013 national election campaign thus far, thousands of people on motorbikes converged on Kandal province’s Takhmao town on Friday night to hear self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy deliver his first public speech since his pardon hours earlier.

For the most part, the Cambodia National Rescue Party rally was half pop concert – replete with heavy rock riffs, disco beats and altered versions of Gangnam Style – and half comedy-sketch show.

But for the nine or so minutes that Rainsy’s face beamed out from giant screens and he talked to an expectant crowd via a Skype connection, it was overtly political – and the crowd of mainly young people was at fever pitch.

Rainsy inspired the already vocal audience with election rhetoric, but left many disappointed by not revealing his immediate plans to return.

“Don’t worry, I will meet all of you soon in Phnom Penh,” he said.

The CNRP announced the next morning that Rainsy, whom it says has been in France, will return to the Kingdom this Friday.

But for those in the crowd expecting Rainsy to proudly declare last Friday night the exact time and date his plane would touch down, the uncertainty that lingered after his speech was too much to bear.

“Why did he not focus on when he’s coming back here?” asked a monk.

A number of other CNRP supporters were convinced Rainsy had a seat on a SilkAir flight from Singapore and they had planned to be at Phnom Penh International Airport on Saturday afternoon to meet him.

A CNRP official and former lawmaker who asked not to be named told a Post reporter at the rally that Rainsy was dealing with passport issues and was in Singapore – but other party officials have since denied this was the case.

In an email Friday, Rainsy said he was “most grateful to King Norodom Sihamoni” for granting him a pardon – which means he will not be arrested if he comes back to campaign before July 28’s national election. He previously faced the prospect of years in prison.

Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando, speaking on stage later, repeated the familiar battle cry “Change or not change?” to the fervent crowd, before speculating on what life under the opposition might be like.

“If the CNRP wins this election, everything will change. Don’t fear a war, because the CNRP loves peace,” he said. “We’ll change from bad to good, from difficulty to success.”

Thousands of people on motorbikes – primarily youths – flooded into the streets of Takhmao town in the late afternoon and evening.

The sheer number streaming back to Phnom Penh after the rally suggested a large percentage of them were city-dwellers.

Kong Buna, 25, an economic management graduate from Build Bright University in Phnom Penh, said he had been inspired by news that Rainsy was returning. “I was so happy when I heard that the King had pardoned Sam Rainsy and when he claimed he was coming back to Phnom Penh soon,” he said.

“I hope the CNRP wins the election – if the NEC can be trusted to allow it to win – and the new government resolves all the problems of the youth and of poor communities.”

Unemployed, Buna said he hoped a new government could create jobs for people like him.

During his Skype chat, Rainsy made a plea to people like Buna, encouraging youths especially to vote July 28.

“I heard that about 10,000 youths are gathering in Takhmao town and some authorities have blocked them,” he said. “But don’t worry; I will meet all of you soon.”


  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty