As the opposition CNRP’s ninth consecutive day of demonstrations against the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen came to a close last night, CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha mocked the premier’s upcoming state visit to Vietnam, suggesting that he was “running for help.”
Some 6,000 protesters, mostly on motorcycles, snaked through the city Monday, with thousands more lining the route and chanting for Mr. Hun Sen to “get out.”
After the crowd reassembled at Freedom Park around 7 p.m., Mr. Sokha asked the prime minister to choose between Vietnam and his people.
“Yesterday [Sunday] there was a landslide of people in the streets…. It seemingly does not bode well for Mr. Hun Sen,” Mr. Sokha said to the crowd.
“Now he is running to Vietnam for help…. Wait and see on the 26th: Does he listen to Cambodia or Vietnam?”
The government on Monday announced that Mr. Hun Sen would lead an official state visit to Vietnam on Thursday. Mr. Sokha said last night that this was Mr. Hun Sen’s call for help after at least 30,000 people flooded the city streets on Sunday in the nation’s largest demonstration in decades.
“Yesterday [Sunday], I heard he was planning to step down, that he was going to listen to the people. Cambodia is saying ‘step down,’ the yuon is telling him to stay,” Mr. Sokha said, using a term for the Vietnamese often considered pejorative. “Who will he choose?”
Mr. Sokha and CNRP President Sam Rainsy were absent at the start of Monday’s rally, but supporters led chants from atop tuk-tuks as the peaceful protest traversed the city.
Mr. Sokha joined the rally at around 5 p.m. atop a vehicle at the head of the march, while Mr. Rainsy met the crowd at Freedom Park after rallying with striking workers in Svay Rieng province to congratulate his supporters on maintaining their vigor.
“This is a new chapter in Cambodian history,” Mr. Rainsy told the crowd.
“Ten years from now, we can tell the next generation that we participated in these demonstrations, that we struggled for freedom, peace and justice.”
“We can now come free from the Communist yuon.”