Cambodian Actress Declares Support for CNRP

Cambodian actress Bonita Dadena has publicly declared her support for the opposition CNRP, a move that could affect her security and career, she claimed Wednesday.

A fixture in Cambodian films, Ms. Dadena was first seen with the CNRP on Saturday at the party’s mass demonstration at Freedom Park. The actress—who portrayed a woman seeking revenge against her rapists in her most recent film, “Arb”—was on stage handing out headbands with CNRP slogans to supporters while sporting one herself.

On Tuesday, Ms. Dadena was part of Mr. Rainsy’s entourage as he visited O’Russei market in Phnom Penh to greet opposition party supporters. While Mr. Rainsy’s presence drew thousands to the market, Ms. Dadena also drew a fair share of attention in her own right.

Speaking on Wednesday by phone, the actress said she joined Mr. Rainsy’s cause on Friday because she was inspired by the CNRP’s policies.

“He has been a model in my mind for a long time already. He’s been struggling all the time in this political contest for the people and for the country’s interests,” she said. “It is now time for me to speak out and show the people that I support him.”

While many in the Cambodian entertainment industry have publicly displayed their support for the ruling CPP, almost none have expressed their support for the CNRP, which returned massive gains in the July 28 election.

Ms. Dadena said that under the Constitution, she should be able to openly champion her political preferences without fear of possible personal or professional consequences.

“The Constitution of Cambodia and the laws effectively in place and implemented don’t prevent artists from participating and supporting opposition parties,” she said.

Popular pro-Funcinpec comedian Lorcy, who passed away in September 2011 in a road accident, had said he struggled to find work on television after he performed for the royalist party during the 2003 national election campaign. In 2009, Lorcy—whose real name is Pok Thareth—left Funcinpec and published an apology letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, after which his career picked up again.

Another pro-Funcinpec entertainer, Touch Srey Nich, was shot three times at close range on October 22, 2003. The young pop star was paralyzed from the neck down, and her mother died in the attack. Ms. Srey Nich, who was believed to have been targeted for her political affiliation after performing several campaign songs for the royalist party, was granted asylum in the U.S.

“I don’t really worry about my career but I am a little concerned about my safety,” Ms. Dadena said.

CNRP parliamentarian for Battambang province Mu Sochua said there were many entertainers who support her party but choose to keep their political affiliation a secret out of fear.

“One reason is that they will lose their contracts [with television stations], and two is because of fear,” Ms. Sochua said.

“Those who want to live beyond fear are remarkable. We want to stop this culture of violence,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)

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