siem reap- All morning, Princess Norodom Vacheara was praying for rain while visiting Buddhist pagodas.
In drought-afflicted Siem Reap province, where she is campaigning for her nephew’s party, Funcinpec, she frequently gets asked to pray to end the dry spell.
The half-sister of King Norodom Sihanouk, she returned from France last month to lead the party’s Siem Reap effort. Though previously not well-known here, she is relying on her royal status to carry her and her party through.
In her speeches, she conjured up images of a monarchical Golden Age, referring to the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, the party her half-brother founded in 1955, and which won every seat that year. Although politics are more complicated these days, she said the royal family still has much support from the people.
“Most of them are still royalists,” she said. “They want to see me, to hear me, to touch me, but they’re intimidated.”
The princess said she did not expect people to vote freely. “They are scared. Very, very scared.”
Over tea in her hotel, she said she never wanted to be in politics, but changed her mind after the factional fighting last July. “A small country, a poor country, like Cambodia, we don’t have a lot of people who can run the country,” she said. “Cambodia needs everybody to contribute.”
“Cambodia needs a monarchy,” she added. “Not a strong man, not a cruel man, not a dictatorship.
“We got three [of six seats] in 1993, this time will be harder,” she said, referring to the parties that have spun-off from Funcinpec. “A part of our voice has been taken by Sam Rainsy, a little by Ung Huot, a little by Toan Chay.”
Returning to her hotel from a day of campaigning around Siem Reap town and inside the Angkor Wat complex, she was greeted by several people thanking her for the rain that ended a dry spell of several days. “I prayed for rain, and it rains. People still believe that,” she said.