Jul 15 2013

Election build-up in Phnom Penh

Published by at 7:55 am under Events


If you’re in Phnom Penh, you’ve probably guessed that something political is afoot in the month of July. Your first big clue would be the motorcades of excitable party faithful beeping horns, waving flags and blocking traffic behind flat-bed trucks blaring music and playing election broadcasts on large screens. Banners and posters featuring the appropriate smiling party leaders — Prime Minister Hun Sen for the Cambodian People’s Party and the bespectacled Sam Rainsy for the Cambodia National Rescue Party — may also have clued you in.

They're not campaigning for noise abatement.

They’re not campaigning for noise abatement.

The political roadshows tend to start almost as soon as the sun comes up, leading to a rude awakening at 05:30am if your hotel happens to be near a mustering point. Wearing baseball caps denoting their party of choice — an angel for the CPP and a rising sun for the CNRP — the two groups are almost indistinguishable, although CPP’s bigger budgets tend to mean louder speakers and longer processions. Although currently good-natured, common sense recommends that you don’t get too involved in these rallies, which are likely to get more fevered as the election date of July 28 approaches.

Best observed from a distance ... with earplugs!

Best observed from a distance … with earplugs!

To add to the heady mix, the self-exiled Sam Rainsy has received a royal pardon for charges of defamation that kept him out of the country, and is expected to arrive in the capital very soon. Having stayed out of Cambodia for nearly four years, excitement is running high among Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters. No date has been confirmed for his re-entry but rumours are pointing to some time in the week beginning July 15. If you happen to land at Phnom Penh airport when he does, it will be a historic moment or a right pain in the queue, depending on your perspective.

In a further twist, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s father died on July 12 and preparations are underway for a significant funeral outside the Prime Minister’s big white house close by Independence Monument. We’d recommend steering clear of this area on Wednesday 17, when the memorial ceremony will take place. You may find road travel significantly disrupted along Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in the next few days.

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