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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs