If the Cambodia Nationality Party (CNP) wins the forthcoming national election, as its acting president and staunch supporters optimistically predict it will, its president, the Venerable Ta Hang, will defrock and become the first monk to move directly from the pagoda to the Peace Palace.
As many as 1,000 CNP followers from across the country gathered to rally support in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, and despite being absent, Ta Hang’s picture was on display for all to see.
Led by acting president Seng Sokheng, a ramshackle convoy of more than 50 trucks and vans adorned with framed photos of Ta Hang meandered through the outskirts of the city spreading the party message. But while the direction of its policy is clear, the details are not.
“We take Buddhist rules as our policy; we follow that policy,” Mr. Sokheng said. “We focus only on the present and a future that will see the country run in a peaceful way,” he said of the party, which was only founded in December 2010.
Mr. Sokheng said that Ta Hang had joined the monkhood in Preah Vihear province in 2003 and would defrock when his party was elected to govern—an outcome he was bullishly, or blindly, confident of. And while Ta Hang’s political credentials proved elusive, his deputy alluded to a higher power.
“Our president, he can predict the future and he can negotiate between the people and the devada,” he said.
“We have 30,000 activists going door to door nationwide to inform people of our party. We have hopes that we can win 80 seats in the election and then [Ta Hang] will defrock and run the country.”
The mostly rural flag-wavers who joined the CNP cavalcade were similarly confident in their leader, despite the might of the ruling CPP and the emergence of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who together are expected to wrap up the majority of the seats in Parliament.
Kim Songheng, 45, from Kompong Cham province, said he used to support Funcinpec but turned to the CNP because it followed the Buddhist path.
“I changed to the CNP because it will bring unity and equality to our land,” he said. “The CNP will not take property from the people as we see happen these days.”