Stalemate continues

August 27, 2013

So yesterday was a big-ish day for Cambodia, with the holding of a mass rally in Phnom Penh by the opposition CNRP. The mood in the city was a bit febrile and slightly jittery, but there was, in the end, no violence. Which is something of a relief.

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha told the crowd of 10,000, which was described as “raucous”, that unless the ruling CPP cooperated in forming an impartial committee to investigate election irregularities within two weeks, the CNRP will hold more nationwide mass demonstrations. Which sounds ominous.

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“We are pushing to create a fair and independent committee to investigate election irregularities. If they don’t create an independent committee, we will hold a demonstration,” Rainsy said.

The Constitutional Council will confirm final election results by September 8, allowing a new government to form by the end of next month.

The CNRP has alleged widespread manipulation of voter lists and identity fraud engineered by the CPP in cooperation with the NEC.

After two rounds of negotiations over the past three weeks, the CPP and CNRP have made no progress in deciding what group would head a committee to investigate the scale and impact of election irregularities.

In a recent briefing, human rights organization LICADHO said “problems were documented in an alarming percentage of the stations visited; ranging from voter roll irregularities, to indications of intentional fraud or vote rigging, to intimidation.”

In his last public remarks, nearly a month ago, Hun Sen said that should the CNRP boycott the National Assembly, their seats would legally be given to the CPP.

Since election day, the CNRP has said it would accept nothing less than victory and the removal of the CPP from power following the election, which Rainsy has claimed the opposition won with 63 seats to the CPP’s 60.

“Our Cambodia National Rescue Party is the party that got the real win. We thank all the people who rightly decided to vote for the CNRP. It means that you voted for the fall of the present leaders that are communist, corrupt, partisan, nepotistic and who caused damage to our country’s property,” Sokha said, sticking it to the man, as it were.

A young woman at the rally was quoted as saying she was willing to stand up to the government, regardless of how heavy-handed it was in trying to suppress mass demonstrations.

“Present day Cambodia is without fear. We are not scared of tanks. Even if they had nuclear weapons, I would not be scared to demonstrate,” she said.

In more typical Cambodian news, I spotted this man doing something up a pole the other day.

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Now, I don’t care much for Health & Safety rules, but this just seems insane. This is just a single, scaffolding-thickness pole. And he’s not tied on to anything.

High up

He’s the tiny figure in the centre of the picture. Everyday life above the streets of Cambodia, eh? I couldn’t watch…

 

Same same, but different

August 12, 2013

Apologies to anyone who’s bored by the recent election here in Cambodia, but it’s a pretty big ongoing story, and difficult to ignore.

To recap, there are basically two parties, both of whom are claiming victory: the ruling CPP, which says it won 68 seats, down from 90, and the opposition CNRP, which is claiming 63. Both cannot be right, so there’s a lot of faffing about going on with the National Election Committee and various independent observers looking at ‘irregularities’ in the voting process.

The opposition CNRP, led by the charismatic Sam Rainsy, is desperate to get the United Nations involved in any investigation; the CPP don’t want this. Meanwhile, tensions in the country are mounting. Someone planted a bomb outside the back door of the Municipal Court a couple of nights ago, which blew up a bit of pavement at 0100hrs. No one has claimed responsibility. Was it the CNRP? Unlikely – there’s not much to be gained by that for them. Was it the CPP, trying to make it look like the CNRP? No one knows.

In a slightly more ominous move, soldiers in armoured personnel carriers were spotted in the capital a couple of days ago, the first time heavy armour has been deployed anywhere in the country, apart from on the Thai border, in the past decade. A brigadier told a local paper that “we’re just bringing them back to the warehouse for repairs,” although from the look of them, they’re in pretty good shape. And when he says “warehouse” it looks rather like he meant “by the side of the main highways in and out of the capital.”

The deployment comes after the country’s interior minister warned of “trouble” if the election situation isn’t sorted out, presumably in the CPP’s favour, fairly quickly.

The consensus amongst people I’ve been talking to is that Sam Rainsy should take his guaranteed 55 seats and just get on with it, lining himself up for much bigger gains in five years time. Prime Minister Hun Sen is on the back foot right now, and is going to have to concede some power. But he is a wily and often brutal political streetfighter, and has a lot to lose, so anything could happen.

So things are a little tense here in Phnom Penh. But only a little. And Sam Rainsy, for some reason, has popped off to the States for his daughter’s wedding, which is adding to the feeling of instability. But generally life continues pretty much as usual.