News / Asia

    Exiled Cambodian Opposition Leader Returns to Huge Crowds

    Supporters await the arrival of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy at Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, July 19, 2013. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)
    Supporters await the arrival of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy at Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, July 19, 2013. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)
    Robert Carmichael
    Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy arrived in Phnom Penh Friday after nearly four years in self-imposed exile. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the capital to welcome him back, little more than a week before the country goes to the polls.
     
    Earlier this week the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party estimated that 20,000 people would line the road to the airport on Friday to welcome Sam Rainsy, and that a further 20,000 would congregate in Freedom Park, the public space where he later addressed his supporters.
     
    Far more turned out. Several tens of thousands lined the airport road. Some observers estimated the crowd at more than 100,000. 

    Even Sam Rainsy himself was astonished at his reception. He spoke briefly to VOA after arriving on stage at Freedom Park in central Phnom Penh to address thousands of supporters, saying he was very touched to be home.  

    "Incredible. I cannot find words to express my emotions," Rainsy said. 
     
    He also predicted the outcome for elections set for July 28.
     
    "If the election were free and fair, we would win a landslide victory."
     
    Rainsy addresses supporters in Phnom Penh on July 19, 2013.Rainsy addresses supporters in Phnom Penh on July 19, 2013.
    x
    Rainsy addresses supporters in Phnom Penh on July 19, 2013.
    Rainsy addresses supporters in Phnom Penh on July 19, 2013.
    Rainsy then set off to address the adoring crowd, standing side-by-side with deputy party leader Kem Sokha, the man who has led the opposition’s electoral charge in his absence.
     
    Sam Rainsy left Cambodia in 2009 ahead of an 11-year jail term on charges that the opposition and others have long held were trumped up.
     
    Earlier this month, after nearly four years away, he pledged to return regardless of the consequences. The United States was one donor that told the Cambodian government it would take a dim view if it jailed the leader of the opposition.
     
    And so a week ago a pardon was ordered by Rainsy’s great political rival, Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose ruling Cambodian People's Party has more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament and which is expected to win this election. The pardon, said a government spokesman, was to promote peace and national reconciliation.
     
    Rainsy’s return leaves him with just a week or so to campaign. On Saturday, Rainsy and Kem Sokha will together visit key provinces to try and boost the opposition’s chances.
     
    One man who will not need any persuading is Narith, a government employee who was waiting at the airport for Rainsy. Narith, who was reluctant to give his full name, said he has long admired Sam Rainsy and his policies, particularly the opposition’s pledge to boost the salaries of public servants.
     
    “He’s our hope." Our hope because he plans to have like the teacher or officer salary higher - better than now," he said. "Now is bad condition. I mean salary cannot survive. And Mr. Sam Rainsy, my hero, he will provide us with this expectation.”
     
    The size of Friday’s turnout makes it clear that the opposition leader is the hope for many others too, and that will surely unsettle some in the ruling party.
     
    Yet few analysts believe Rainsy’s presence will see a change in government: Hun Sen and his party remain popular, particularly in rural areas. Cambodia’s rolls of eligible voters are also in disarray, leading to worries that the polls remain vulnerable to rigging.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: GoodSamaritan from: Los Angeles, CA
    July 19, 2013 6:25 PM
    If Hun Sen's party is smart enough, they should let Sam Rainsy in the ballot because he is not going to win anyway. It will only make Hun Sen look good. Sam Rainsy may have a chance in 5 years from now, 2018. For now, people still love and trust Hun Sen more than any Cambodian leader. I am not a big fan of Hun Sen and I don’t think he should lead the country forever. Let a new person bring new good ideas. But let’s be fair and give Hun Sen some credits. He has led the country for 28 years and there has never been a civil war. He never tortured innocent people like other Cambodian leaders. Cambodian people are allowed to have their own businesses, have cell phones, drive cars, learn foreign languages, chose their own religions, etc… Journalists accused him of being a Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot Communist), but it was him who did not like Pol Pot and escaped to Vietnam to get help and rescued Cambodia. Without him, every single Cambodian would get killed by Pol Pot.
    I am Cambodian with American citizen and I was surprised when I went back to Cambodia in 2009 and was treated so well by the Hun Sen’s administration. Let’s give benefit of the doubt. I hope Sam Rainsy be a prime minister and improve life style in Cambodia. But don’t forget Long Nol who was pro by western countries and it was him who bought Cambodia to its knee. Remember this, one leader alone cannot change the country. It is up to people. People in America blame Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama. Shall be blame crappie people?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora