Tank Spotting as Sam Rainsy Returns
Image Credit: Luke Hunt

Tank Spotting as Sam Rainsy Returns

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Tank spotting has become something of a national obsession around the Cambodian capital. Reports of Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) – often mistaken for tanks – troops, arms and razor wire being deployed around the capital dominate talk in the media, pubs and cafes alike.

Their deployment came after opposition threats to mount protests on the streets of the capital amid claims of cheating at last month’s election as Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), returned after his daughter’s wedding in the United States.

However, the military deployment has been low key. APCs are being kept out of view, hidden in pagodas along major highways on the outskirts of town. Analysts told The Diplomat they were being positioned to prevent people from heading into the capital if the protests materialize.

The decision was heavy handed and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who won the July 28 election with a handy if reduced majority, has been characterized as a graceless bully as a result. But the behavior of Rainsy has often been irresponsible.

In the event of soldiers taking to the streets, the opposition leader had urged his supporters to approach soldiers and offer them flowers. His “Posey Revolution” came despite the fact that he led the opposition to its fourth successive loss in as many elections. There has even been a push from those around him to label upcoming protests as a “Cambodian Spring.”

While allegations of cheating appear to have considerable merit and CNRP supporters are correct in being outraged and do have a right to demonstrate, it remains doubtful that Rainsy would have won even if no cheating had taken place.

At best, and according to his own count, he might have won a one or two seat majority in the National Assembly, which would in that event prove ungovernable. Rainsy failed to win a clear mandate and so he is left urging supporters to confront soldiers and their tanks with flowers.

Last week police arrested four people they said were believed to be involved in a conspiracy hatched by a dissident Khmer-American group plotting to topple Hun Sen.

The four – two men and two women – were arrested after at­tempting to hand out 1,000 yellow roses to soldiers and police along with cards urging them to turn their weapons “against the despot.”

Common sense and a cool head have never been Rainsy’s strongest points. He has not won the support of the international community, and importantly the United States, because his own results at this election were underwhelming.

His insistence that protests are inevitable, if he does not have his way on a probe into the allegations of fraud, is only further antagonizing a needless confrontation. If Rainsy is serious about running a government then its time he started behaving like an opposition leader.

The National Election Committee (NEC) has been rebuked for its lack of partiality in its handling of the poll and complaints over electoral irregularities. With 55 seats, or about 45 percent of representatives, in the National Assembly the CNRP should be demanding a louder voice within the bureaucracy and more of its people on the boards of bodies like the NEC and in government committees responsible for appointments.

But such talk has been persistently drowned out by threats of confrontation from both sides of politics consumed with tank spotting, which has done little more than scare the broader population, further muddy an already dirty political game and cast Rainsy and Sen in an equally bad light.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter at @lukeanthonyhunt.

Comments
5
LET THEM EAT DIRT
August 24, 2013 at 04:13

tHE SOCIALIST COMMUNIST SAM RETURNS FROM ABROAD IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE

OTHER CHICKENS LIKE RANNARIDH 

 

LET HUN SEN DO WHAT HE DOES BEST

BUILD THE COUNTRY 

 

WHAT HAPPENED DID GEORGE SOROS 

DECIDE TO BACK RAINSY?

 

 

Khmer
August 24, 2013 at 03:34

you are a puppet of Hun Sen. U not mentioned how Hun Sen govern Cambodia by forcing people out of their land, corruptions etc..Hun Sen cheated the election and always use forces against his own people.

nary
August 23, 2013 at 17:45

Luke, you should do some research before posting such a biased article. The Cambodian people are encouraged to protest because there were definite evidence of cheating during the election. As there have been in past elections for the last 28 years! Luke, you failed to mention how Hun Sen is an authoritarian tyrant who admittedly found ways to cheat for the last 3 decades. He is the root of all corruption in the country. Why should the citizens of Cambodia continue to live in fear and be forced to accept the bogus election result? They have the right to protest to demand a fair election… All Rainsy is doing is for people to no longer feel opressed and stand up for what they believe is right… And the fact that Rainsy ask them to do it peacefully with rose shows how responsible of a leader he is. There are millions of Rainsy supporters… Most Cambodian reporters and channels don't dare to report the truth due to Hun Sen's intimidation tactics. I wouldn't be surprised if Hun Sen paid Luke to write this article.

srey khmer
August 22, 2013 at 23:58

quite the contrary bill.  the author failed to mention that the hun sen people control everything in the country. use of arms or other means in cambodian should not be his property, but he insists.

Bill
August 22, 2013 at 05:26

I guess Rainsy is going to look stupid protesting alone…

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