tbong khmum district, Kompong Cham province – Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh concluded his provincial campaign tour with promises to fortify the military and appeals to reject a CPP government.
The prince descended from a helicopter and landed in a cow pasture filled with more than 10,000 cheering, flag-waving supporters. Prince Ranariddh excited the crowd with anti-Vietnamese rhetoric and scathing mockery of Prime Minister Hun Sen, aiming to secure victory in Cambodia’s most populous province.
Prince Ranariddh encouraged Cambodians to use their “people power” to change the government by voting. He then reminded the crowd of changes of governments in the Philippines and Indonesia in recent years.
Citizens of both those countries ousted dictatorial leaders through protests.
“The Philippines can do it, and we can, too,” Prince Ranariddh said. “Funcinpec cannot lose the elections because the people support it. If Funcinpec loses, there will be fraud.”
The prince calmed supporters concerned about a rumor that voting for Funcinpec would incite war. King Norodom Sihanouk, the prince said, would appear and protect the people in the case of unrest.
Prince Ranariddh said Cambodia needs to recover the naval and air forces built up during his father’s reign.
“We are not capable of protecting the air space and water border,” the prince said. “I will rehabilitate the Cambodian armed forces.”
Territorial agreements made with Vietnam between 1979 and 1985 will be canceled and renegotiated if he becomes prime minister, Prince Ranariddh said. He also repeated his promise to create an Immigration Ministry.
Prince Ranariddh asked the crowd if there were too many Vietnamese in Cambodia. The cheering crowd yelled “yes” in response.
“Yuon will stay if you vote for the wrong one. Yuon will go if you vote for the right one,” Prince Ranariddh said, quoting a banner he saw from his helicopter.
Yuon is a derogatory term for Vietnamese.
Prince Ranariddh’s thinning gray hair was a stark difference to the fresh-faced politician pictured on signs waved by supporters. Smiles were plastered on the faces of most attendees for the duration of his three-hour speech.
Princess Rattana Devi, Prince Ranariddh’s daughter and Funcinpec’s top candidate in Kratie province, laughed without restraint at her father’s mockery of Hun Sen’s alternative campaign style.
Hun Sen has eschewed traditional campaign activities for the last month, but has made several visits to the countryside to visit rice farmers. Prince Ranariddh said on Thursday that Hun Sen should stay in the rice paddies.
“If he [Hun Sen] plants rice, please plant it again and let the new leader lead the nation,” he said.
Asked whether he would unite with the Sam Rainsy Party in a coalition to oust the CPP, Prince Ranariddh said he would be open to forming a “great union” with both the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party, as long as Funcinpec was in charge.
Kompong Cham, which holds 18 National Assembly seats, is pivotal in a Funcinpec victory, said Finance Ministry Secretary of State Kong Vibol, Funcinpec’s No 4 Kompong Cham candidate.
“It’s a Funcinpec place. Kompong Cham determines the whole country,” he said.
Funcinpec secured eight seats in Kompong Cham during the 1998 elections, two less than it won in the 1993 elections. CPP holds seven seats, while the Sam Rainsy Party collected three seats in the last election.
Prince Ranariddh’s final campaign visit to Kompong Cham proved a far larger production than Sam Rainsy’s campaign through the province on Thursday, which unfolded in small, short bursts in three Kompong Cham towns.
Standing on the ground next to his supporters in Ponhea Krek district, Sam Rainsy renewed promises to end corruption and raise civil servants’ wages. The opposition party leader echoed Funcinpec’s anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, saying that he would not allow “youn” to continue to flood the country.
Sam Rainsy condemned Hun Sen’s government and said he would prefer to befriend the US than the prime minister.
“I decided to make friends with the US,” he said. “If the US breathes out a little, Hun Sen will be blown away.”