takeo province – The political unknown charged with putting the brakes on the decline of one of Cambodia’s largest parties kept a fairly low profile before hitting the campaign trail in recent months.
But belying a somewhat demure reputation, Funcinpec prime minister candidate Princess Norodom Arunrasmey showed a flash of steel that her father, retired King Norodom Sihanouk, would have been proud of at a major Funcinpec rally in Takeo town Wednesday morning.
“I will not talk to your newspaper,” she told a Cambodia Daily reporter before striding purposefully toward the podium to address her supporters. “Funcinpec is doing a lot of hard work, but all you write about is the opposition.”
It is the kind of steel Princess Arunrasmey may need during the home stretch of a campaign that many believe could end in disaster for her party at the polls Sunday.
The scale of the challenge was underlined yesterday morning as large convoys of cheering CPP supporters drove past the provincial Funcinpec headquarters almost constantly throughout her speech.
“As Funcinpec members, you bear the standard for morality,” she told an estimated 4,000-strong crowd that was beginning to rumble as another CPP vehicle whizzed by.
“Today [CPP supporters] wear white shirts, but in the future they will wear yellow [Funcinpec] shirts,” Princess Arunrasmey said.
“Change the shirt, change the shirt!” the crowd chanted back.
Moving around the stage, microphone in hand, the youngest daughter of the retired King cut a confident figure, and the yellow-clad crowd reacted enthusiastically.
“I believe that there is nothing we cannot do if we have the will to do it,” she said.
If elected prime minister, Princess Arunrasmey said she would listen to party supporters and not act on her will alone.
A voice from the crowd shouted out, “Fight corruption and illegal immigration.”
“I will deal with these two issues if elected,” she retorted.
Princess Arunrasmey told the crowd Tuesday morning she was grateful to have been given the chance to be the country’s first female prime minister.
“If you vote for me, I will do my best to resolve Cambodia’s problems, and if I do not do as I have promised, do not vote for me next time,” she said.
The message went down well with supporters spoken to after the rally, albeit for different reasons.
Nay Saroeun, 30, said she would vote for Funcinpec because the party was best equipped to deal with the external threats Cambodia now faces from Thailand and Vietnam.
“[Princess Arunrasmey] is a strong woman in Cambodian politics, and I am happy to see this,” she said.
Hay Him, 43, expanded on that theme. “I think a good woman can lead this country better than any man can,” she said.
Chea Bunna, 61, on the other hand, liked that the prime minister candidate made a few mentions of her husband, Funcinpec President Keo Puth Rasmey.
“She is a good wife, and I am confident she will be a good leader,” he said.