Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday visited vendors in Phnom Penh’s Olympic and Russian markets and appealed to voters disgruntled by preliminary election results awarding a victory to the CPP to join a planned opposition rally at Freedom Park on Monday.
As he toured both markets, Mr. Rainsy embraced his supporters as the animated crowds offered him gifts of flowers and jockeyed to take photographs and videos of the opposition leader.
“I am very happy and excited to meet with the vendors today because they have a special relationship with me—we are like siblings,” said Mr. Rainsy, who walked around the crowded markets unencumbered by any police or security guards.
Speaking to reporters at Russian Market, the second of the two markets he visited during the course of the morning, Mr. Rainsy reiterated his party’s stance that CNRP lawmakers will not sit in the National Assembly until a solution to the impasse over allegations of irregularities during the July 28 national election is reached.
“When we have justice for the people and earn their trust by not allowing [the CPP] to defraud voters and have an election victory that people accept—at that time we will join the meeting of the National Assembly,” he said.
Mr. Rainsy also told vendors that he hoped they would support his party’s attempts to bring transparency to the election by joining a rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on Monday, though he continued to underline that the event should not be considered a demonstration against the election results, but rather an opportunity to inform supporters of the country’s current political situation.
“I hope that a lot of people will join in the gathering—but this is a rally, not a demonstration,” he said.
With the CNRP expecting at least 10,000 people to turn out for the rally, authorities have been engaged in a counter-campaign to discourage people from taking part, with a visible security buildup and ominous rhetoric seeking to frighten supporters and keep them from participating.
Authorities even circulated petitions at Phnom Penh markets asking people to support preliminary results showing a win for the CPP and promising not to join any demonstration called by the opposition.
Vendors, motorcycle taxi and cyclo drivers around O’Russei Market reported that market staff had gone around Monday intimidating people into giving their thumbprint, while NGOs said that several other communes around the city also complained of feeling pressured into endorsing similar petitions.
But on Friday, the vendors at Olympic and Russian markets expressed optimism that Mr. Rainsy and his party could help bring an end to the current political stalemate.
“I support Mr. Rainsy and he comes to the market to visit us,” said a 56-year-old market vendor, who gave her name only as Ms. Long for fear of reprisals.
“People believe that the Cambodia National Rescue Party had an election victory, but we don’t know why it was changed like this,” she added.
A 28-year-old pork vendor at Russian Market, who declined to give his name, said that he hoped Mr. Rainsy could become prime minister because he would bring more prosperity to his business.
“I think that he is a good leader for Cambodia and I hope that he will help our vendors to sell more and more goods,” he said.
CNRP officials met on Friday with Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong to discuss final security arrangements for Monday’s rally, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
After the meeting Mr. Socheatvong said he had passed on the opposition party’s requests to the Interior Ministry with the stipulation that the rally finish by 6 p.m.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that he had received the request and had added some further rules ahead of the rally.
“We agree on three points: The gathering has to finish at 6 p.m., we will only allow 6,000 people to join and people from the provinces are not allowed to join in,” he said.
“We don’t allow them to march down the roads and the CNRP must have their own security guards to keep the gathering in place and cooperate with our forces outside,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak said, declining to say what measures would be taken if more than 6,000 people turn up to Monday’s rally.
CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said it would be difficult to moderate the number of people coming to the rally.
“If people come, people come. How do you stop them? All I know is there will be a lot of people,” she said.
Military police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito said this week that any attempt to disturb security at the rally would not be tolerated and security forces were fully equipped to quash any violence.