The voice of the people

June 5, 2012

So the dust is settling on the communal elections, only the third time they’ve been held in the modern era in Cambodia, and, with the final results dribbling in, against the odds, the opposition seems to have done better than expected.

The latest figures show that all the opposition parties polled 31 percent of the vote, up from 25 percent in 2007. However, the ruling CPP is still looking pretty comfortable, at 69 percent.

A couple of days before the election, our newspaper was passed some documents from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, suggesting that CPP heavyweights Chea Sim, the President of the Senate, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and army chief Pol Sareoun, as well as another senator, had been named as ‘persons of interest’ in what is known as Case 003, which the government, perhaps unsurprisingly, is fiercely opposed to.

In the documents, a UN investigator said the four senior members of the CPP held positions of authority in the Khmer Rouge regime and are key witnesses to atrocities committed against ethnic Vietnamese civilians living on the border with Cambodia.This ought to be a pretty big story. Sadly, it was deemed too sensitive to run on election weekend. I might have run it, had I been editor, but I’m pretty foolhardy. However The Age in Melbourne also got hold of the documents, and they happily ran them. I guess distance lends enchantment, and safety.

Meanwhile, there were the obvious charges of irregularities over voting, with intimidation, ghost voters and electoral roll sabotage all being widely reported.

Apart from the all-too-predictable victory for the CPP, the elections were quite good fun. I watched members of a Royalist party handing out 500 riel notes ($0.12) to potential voters; no one else looked surprised. Drinking was banned across the country for 24 hours… apparently. I did not see this.

Turnout was lower than previous elections, estimated at 61 percent, from 71 percent last time: observers said that perhaps people were “tired of voting and not seeing any change.” Voters all had their right forefinger dipped in indelible ink after casting their vote, so it is easy to tell who voted and who didn’t, which is a good way of starting a conversation, although not necessarily a popular one.

There were also a surprising amount of marches going on around Phnom Penh, with thousands of people with party flags and loudhailers, on the backs of trucks and on mopeds, trailing through the streets, and trying to avoid the sporadic but torrential monsoon rains.

I watched some of these from my balcony, having made it home for the first time in six weeks. I managed to do this on my crutches without the elevator, which is still not in. There are 150 steps up to the flat, so I reckon that’s equivalent to doing 150 pull-ups. My upper body is now seething with newly-emergent muscles. But my mood is not similarly improved. I’m in two minds about who are the biggest crooks in the country, the CPP, or Cambodian lift installers.

The lift: technically in, but not in service

                                                      A lift installer, busy impressing the hell out of me, on my stairs, 10am today.

And in a rare piece of good news just in, followers of this blog might remember a piece I wrote recently about a Russian paedophile called Alexander Trofimov. Apparently he has finally been re-arrested, in Phnom Penh, and will be deported to Russia.

A police spokesman told AFP that “police arrested him yesterday (Monday)… while he was hiding with a local family,” the spokesman said, adding that the Russian “loved the family’s daughter, who is 11 or 12 years old”.

“According to policy, we will have to expel him very soon,” he added.


One Response to “The voice of the people”

  1. Nicola said

    Hey PP sounds just like London this week – lots of rain, thousands of people in the street waving flags! Did you have a crappy load of boats too?

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