Opposition faces another five years in the wilderness, maybe more, writes Asia Sentinel’s James Pringle

The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party’s mass rally Monday should have been a celebration of the national election as victors but for the blatant chicanery of the long ruling former communist party. Instead the party faces five years in a distressed political wilderness with no guarantee they could, in the nature of things, ever win an election.

The Khmer Rouge still hangs like a chilly shroud over Cambodia to this day, forever brooding although it is 34 years since the last of the mass murderers were driven from Phnom Penh by the invading Vietnamese army, along with certain guerilla fighters who had defected to them along the border.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy, right, and his party's Vice President Kem Sokha, left, meet their party supporters during during Monday's rally. Pic: AP.

These included the present Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has now been in power 28 years, and who claimed to have been elected again on July 28. This is a claim the middle of the road Rescue Party (CNRP) says is invalid, that it was the CNRP that had won, but that there had been electoral fraud which deprived them of winning.

The younger, voting age generation, from 18 to 30 years old, are 3.5 million out of 9.5 million registered voters. They say they do not know about nor care about the Khmer Rouge years, and their parents and grandparents don’t talk about them. Yet some of the still repressed terror the older ones felt under the Khmer Rouge is still there.

That’s why so many in their middle years were anxious about attending this opposition rally by the Rescue party Monday about which the now-aging rulers of Cambodia, many of them former Khmer Rouge themselves, began issuing threats about the event, suggesting that a heavy police and military presence would be on hand to crack down as necessary unless the CNRP kept the numbers of participants to around 6,000.

One middle-aged woman, a young girl during Khmer Rouge times and now a domestic helper, had been warned in anxious calls by her sisters in Australia and on the Thai border, and her daughter in Siem Reap, home city of the Angkor temples, not to go. “I’ll not leave the house, because I’m too afraid and my daughter won’t let me,” she said.

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