07 Aug Change is in the Air: Ramping up for the Cambodian Election
Posted at 12:41h in Southeast AsiaWritten by Amanda Martin, Southeast Asia Unearthed trip leader. We rolled into Cambodia’s bustling capital city, Phnom Penh, when the days to the upcoming Cambodian election could be counted on one hand. For the first time in decades, a mobilized population and a strong opposition were finally challenging Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen. In power for over 28 years, Hun Sen’s monopoly over his country’s economy and government is extremely controversial amongst the international community and his own people. While many Cambodians are happy with the growth of the economy and general stability after their recent civil war and genocide a mere 30 years ago, there is discontent growing and many Cambodians are beginning to stand up and demand change! Our crew spent the first few weeks in Cambodia soaking up rural life and learning about the challenges faced by the ever-present land grabbing, water shortages, and poverty. The challenges are many, but there is still a resounding sense of happiness and calm amongst these resilient people. As we entered urban life, we could sense the enthusiasm and energy for change. There were parades of hundreds of painted faces on motos waving Cambodian flags and cheering “Change or No Change!” as they drove by their fellow citizens. “Change!” They would chant back as they would proudly raise seven fingers in the air symbolizing their vote for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Hun Sen’s ruling party, were also out on the streets in full swing. Throwing parties in the streets with massive stages and monetary presence, their supporters undoubtedly exist as well.