Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha over the weekend made a whirlwind tour of five provinces in the country’s north, making good on Mr. Sokha’s pledge late last month that the opposition party would start to re-engage with its voter base as its parliamentary work becomes less pressing.
Reacting to growing criticism that the CNRP has not been active enough in public since it ended its parliamentary boycott, Mr. Sokha vowed at an opposition forum last month that the party’s 55 lawmakers would meet constituents in the provinces when they were not engaged in Phnom Penh.
Starting with a forum in Kompong Thom province, Mr. Sokha on Friday morning began such a trip out of Phnom Penh, with Mr. Rainsy joining him in Preah Vihear province in the afternoon and remaining with him for the rest of the tour.
Traveling to Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces on Saturday, and to Pailin province Sunday, the opposition leaders called on supporters to stick with them until the 2018 election, and then to vote according to their hearts.
Mr. Rainsy spoke out against the CPP’s practice of distributing gifts during election campaigns, calling on voters to refuse the gifts as a matter of democratic principle.
“In the future, you have to feel a sense of disgust when someone gives you a sarong, gifts or a little bit of money,” Mr. Rainsy told supporters in Pailin, where his party won a surprise victory to claim its only seat in the 1998 election.
“Our lives and our children’s futures do not have an equal value to one sarong. The ballot paper is very expensive, so we must not sell it. We do not need [the sarong] because we want our nation to remain intact,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Mr. Sokha, staying on message, continued to defend the CNRP’s decision to end its boycott of parliament in order to work with the CPP to establish a new election commission.
“The negotiations and our entrance into the National Assembly are for the national interest and the interest of the people. So don’t worry, we will not sell our minds,” he said in Pailin.