A Change of Guard

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Friday, 27 June 2008

Electoral campaigning begins

The HRP rally (top).
The SRP rally (middle).
The CPP rally (bottom).

By Ly Menghour
The Mekong Times

Today is the first day of political campaigning for the July 27 parliamentary elections. Bigger parties will hold major rallies in Phnom Penh and the provinces, while smaller parties will mark the day more humbly or not at all.
The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) will hold a five-thousand strong rally with 100 cars and many motorbikes. The rally will begin at Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum before touring the capital’s streets.
The SRP will hold events in all of Cambodia’s provinces, said Eang Chhay Eang, SRP secretary general, but the biggest is in Phnom Penh. Small groups of activists will make house-calls to publicize the SRP’s political message and distribute promotional material, he added, telling voters the SRP stands for low unemployment, the reduction of high petrol and fertilizer prices and free healthcare.
Ho Vann, an SRP lawmaker said marches will be organized during the day and supporters will each carry a lit candle – the SRP logo – at night.
The Human Rights Party (HRP) will also hold a gathering today, meeting at the HRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters before marching in the streets.
Keat Sokun, vice deputy director of HRP board of directors, said the march was to show “the HRP is the new choice for our best future.” The HRP will campaign on promises of education, increasing employment for Cambodia’s youth, free medical treatment and a better quality of life, especially for farmers.
The Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) will campaign in all provinces and the capital despite the absence of its leader, Norodom Ranariddh. You Hockry, SRP secretary general, said Norodom Ranariddh would give a speech by telephone to 1,000 to 2,000 NRP supporters at the NRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters. Campaigning would focus on corruption, land disputes, inflation and immigration, he added.
Funcinpec will also mark the start of campaigning with events in all of Cambodia’s provinces, beginning with a 7am gathering at the Chenla Theatre in Phnom Penh with Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey and Norodom Arun Reaksmy, Funcinpec premiership candidate. The gathering is predicted to attract 3,500 participants, Funcinpec officials said, though a bigger July 25 will apparently attract 10,000.
The ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) will also have a big gathering at its headquarters, with the three main CPP figureheads – Chea Sim, Heng Samrin and Hun Sen – presiding. Chea Sim is to tell the crowd about Cambodian development
Smaller parties not fielding candidates in every province will mark today with smaller ceremonies.
Sen Saray, an advisor to Khmer Republican Party (KRP) president Lon Rith, said the KRP would just distribute political material, with small gatherings in the areas the KRP will contest. The small scale ceremony was because “we have no money,” he said.
The KRP will campaign on sovereignty, national independence, development, attracting aid from the EU and “other republican countries,” anti-human trafficking and narcotics policies and free healthcare.
The Khmer Anti-Poverty Party (KAPP) will hold no gathering because of concerns over traffic jams, said Sin Sovannarith, KAPP secretary general. The KAPP will hold marches from July 4 until the end of electoral campaigning he added, saying the party will try to show how “America is the mother country of democracy.”
Justice Society Party President Ban Sophal said he would hold a gathering in Battambang province, as Battambang is “the big focus for the Justice Society Party.”
The Phnom Penh Municipality and the police have banned gatherings near major markets and on thoroughfares such as Monivong, Russian and Sihanouk boulevards to avoid traffic jams.

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