Rainsy calls on ‘people power’ to support return to Kingdom

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sam Rainsy spoke to his supporters in Phnom Penh in 2013. Heng Chivoan

Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Camb-odia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on Saturday urged the public to use “people power” when he returns as announced on November 9.

But in response, government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the priority for Cambodia is strengthening the people’s power through the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of every individual.

Rainsy also called on the signatory countries to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements to dissuade the Cambodian government from using violence against protesters.

In an email sent to the media on Saturday, Rainsy claimed that his return to the Kingdom on November 9 was the continuation of his 25-year struggle for democracy against an “authoritarian regime led by former Khmer Rouge members”.

During his political career, he claimed to have launched the first opposition publications, called for the first popular protests for freedom and social justice, organised the first strikes and created the first workers’ free trade union, as well as founded the first parliamentary opposition party.

“But to seek to re-establish democracy in the face of blind power which refuses dialogue with an opposition of which it denies the very existence of, I have only one lever – a direct appeal to the people to use ‘people power’ as in the Philippines in 1986.

“I am convinced that the long-suffering and silenced Cambodian people will massively and peacefully rise to demand a democratic change that it can’t secure at the ballot box since the regime in place refuses to hold any real elections with opposition participation,” Rainsy said.

He also appealed to Cambodia’s friends and the signatory nations to the Paris Peace Agreements to do everything in their power to dissuade the government from using violence against a protesting population exercising their rights and freedoms.

To this, Siphan said: “We are building our future to compete with neighbouring countries. We don’t want to experience any irregularities. The people have already made their decision via elections, which is fundamental to maintaining political stability.

“The needs of Sam Rainsy go against Cambodians, who need peace, stability and prosperity.”

Analysts said they did not believe that “people Power” would be possible considering Cambodia’s current economic prosperity and healthy growth.

Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said “people power” could only succeed if Cambodia was experiencing an economic crisis, with high joblessness, or famine.

“But at the moment, Cambodians cannot follow what Rainsy is calling for. First, some of us are buying and selling land, some have salaries and are feeding their children, some are building houses.

“They won’t pour petrol on the house they are building with the money they have saved through their sweat and toil,” Touch said.

He said should Rainsy’s “people power” happen, the government had every right to protect the Constitution, peace and the trust given to it by the people through the national elections.

“What we can see is that Rainsy’s speech reflects the political games he plays in the final days of his political career because he has no other strategy. He chooses what is called ‘blood politics’ as he approaches 70 years of age,” Touch said.

He called on people to ignore Rainsy’s appeal because, he said, acting on it would achieve nothing.

“Nothing is falling from the sky. Even a hen tries its best to deliver an egg. People have children to look after,” he said, adding that “everything would be lost in a blink if people make the wrong decision”.

Touch said the international community could not escort Rainsy on his return as he was not an elected prime minister.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said, “based on past revolutions in America, France, Russia, China, Vietnam and other countries, if the situation in Cambodia is as he sees it, Rainsy may claim to have casus belli [justification] to call upon the people to use their power to change it”.