CNRP Sneaks In Extra Phnom Penh Rally

Thousands of opposition supporters jammed the streets of Phnom Penh on Sunday to march in the CNRP’s second parade of the campaign period, taking advantage of a quirk in the election law to squeeze in an unexpected procession.

—Commune Election 2017—

Supporters wielding flags and sporting CNRP attire gathered at about 7:30 a.m. in the capital’s Chroy Changva district to listen to short speeches from opposition leaders.

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CNRP supporters rally for the upcoming commune elections in front of the Wat Chas pagoda in Phnom Penh on Sunday. (Satoshi Takahashi)

“Positive change will arrive in Cambodia,” senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said from a makeshift stage in front of Wat Chas. “The CNRP will not only win in Phnom Penh, but will win all around the country.”

Mr. Chhay was joined by senior CNRP lawmakers Yim Sovann and Ho Vann, while party president Kem Sokha was leading two separate rallies in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces.

Sam Samut, a 30-year-old vegetable vendor, said he joined the parade on Sunday because he believed the opposition would do a better job addressing human rights violations, illegal logging, immigration and corruption.

“I hope the CNRP wins 100 percent of the vote,” Mr. Samut said.

After sweeping through the southern end of the peninsula, the convoy crossed west over the Tonle Sap river to enter the northern part of the city—taking more than 30 minutes for all its vehicles to cross the Japanese bridge—finishing its march at about 6 p.m. at Phsar Doeum Kor commune in Tuol Kok district.

While National Election Committee (NEC) officials previously said each party was entitled to just two rallies in each province during the 14-day election period, the head of the Phnom Penh Election Committee (PEC), the NEC’s municipal arm, said on Sunday that the rule actually specifies two marches per commune.

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CNRP supporters rally for the upcoming commune elections in Phnom Penh on Sunday. (Brendan O’Byrne/The Cambodia Daily)

“So all the southern communes they passed [on May 20] we count for one time, but we couldn’t count the other northern communes that they hadn’t marched in yet,” said Meas Chhor Poan, referring to the opposition’s inagural rally on the first day of the campaign season.

Because the two parades didn’t go through any of the same communes, the CNRP’s planned citywide rally on Friday was still approved, Mr. Chhor Poan said.

“I really have a headache because of this issue,” he said, adding that he planned to ask the NEC to amend the election law to only permit two marches in Phnom Penh during one campaign season.

Morn Phalla, head of the CNRP’s executive committee in Phnom Penh, said about 20,000 supporters joined Sunday’s march and that “we plan for about 100,000 people to attend” the final march on Friday.

The CPP also plans to hold a parade on Friday. Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has mostly refrained from campaigning in the past, announced last week he planned to attend the rally, and Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong told CPP-aligned website Fresh News on Saturday that the ruling party expected 150,000 participants.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Byrne)

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