News / Asia

Opposition Leader Says Cambodia's Government Faces Possible Protests

Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party, speaks during a campaign rally in Kandal province in 2008.
Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party, speaks during a campaign rally in Kandal province in 2008.



Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy says Cambodians are growing impatient with the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held on to power for 26 years.  Sam Rainsy says his countrymen could decide to follow the example of Egyptians and Tunisians, who recently overthrew their authoritarian rulers.

The opposition leader, who faces a prison sentence at home for allegedly inciting racial tension with Vietnam, is currently living in France. He recently visited the U.S. and spoke with VOA’s Kate Woodsome.  In their conversation, Sam Rainsy pointed to parallels between the situation in Cambodia and that in the Middle East.

Listen to the full interview:

Does Cambodia have the potential to turn into a situation like what happened in Egypt and Tunisia?

"There are many similarities between Cambodia and those countries where we have seen popular uprisings over the last few weeks or few months.  The similarities are related to poverty, to social injustice, to corruption, to the lack of mechanisms whereby the people could express themselves—could express their will to change—to improve—the system.  So because of this lack of freedom, and because of the growing popular frustrations and discontent, I think what is happening in Egypt, in Tunisia, and in Libya could take place also in Cambodia any time."

Is that something that you would like to see happen?

"It would be better to avoid violence.  It is why we urge the Cambodian government, with the support of the international community, of friendly countries such as the United States, to implement democratic reform, to ensure that the people have a means to express their desire for change and they do not have to resort to street demonstrations to bring about democratic reforms."

You say Cambodians are concerned about poverty and corruption, but the International Republican Institute recently released a survey showing that 76 percent of Cambodians are satisfied with the direction of their country. How do you explain that?

"It depends on the question that you ask.  If you ask, “Have your living conditions improved over the last five years?” I think the answer would be different.  So, in a country where there are no freedoms of expression, we have to take very carefully the result of any opinion poll."

Is there any indication that the Cambodian government is concerned the demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa could spread to Cambodia?

"Definitely, the Cambodia government is very concerned because the ruling party in Cambodia, and especially Mr. Hun Sen, have been in power for around 30 years.  And all over the world there is a desire for change.  People want change, want new leaders, want new approach, want new policies."

Have you seen any indication the Cambodian government is taking steps to avoid what is happening in the Middle East?

"Yes, they have closed down some opposition websites, because these new technologies are very helpful for protesters to coordinate their effort to organize protests.  So definitely the Cambodia government is very concerned, but generally speaking, they tightly control the press.  They have a monopoly on the electronic press and they tightly control the non-government organizations and the civil society in general."

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs