Rainsy Rally Takes to Boats, Motos After Bridge Closure

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Sunday accused CPP activists in Kandal province of dismantling a wooden bridge on Saturday in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to keep him from reaching two scheduled public rallies in the area.

Mr. Rainsy, whose CNRP is disputing preliminary results from the July 28 national election, which have given the ruling CPP a win with 68 seats to the opposition’s 55, is visiting some of the provinces where the opposition made big gains on election day, and in preparation for possible protests.

On Saturday morning, however, his convoy reached a Sa’ang district bridge at about 8:30 a.m. only to find that several of the wooden planks had been re­moved, making a crossing by car impossible, said Ou Chanrith, a CNRP candidate who was traveling with Mr. Rainsy.

Undeterred, the 30 or so party members simply crossed the stream by boat, he said.

“We left the cars on the side of the stream and we used large boats to cross,” Mr. Chanrith said, add­ing they then hopped on the motorbikes of party supporters waiting on the other side to finish their journey and arrive at the rallies.

Mr. Rainsy, who has long ac­cused the ruling party of all manner of subterfuge in attempts to thwart his political ambitions—from getting the courts to hand down spurious convictions to orchestrating a deadly grenade attack on a rally he was leading in 1997—blamed CPP activists for the blocked bridge crossing.

“I think the ruling party interrupted me while I was trying to meet my supporters in two districts in Kandal province because they removed the wooden floor [of the bridge] so we could not cross,” he said.

District governor and CPP member Khim Chankiri denied the opposition’s conspiracy theory. He confirmed that the bridge was closed to traffic just before Mr. Rainsy arrived, but he said the timing was coincidental and part of several days of repairs.

“I would like to deny that our authorities removed the floor to not let them cross the bridge,” he said. “We had to repair the bridge because it is too old.”

Mr. Chankiri said the bridge was reopened after only half an hour, which was not long after Mr. Rainsy and his entourage took to the boats and motorcycles.

The CNRP also said that Mr. Rainsy addressed some 20,000 supporters once he finally reached his destination in Koh Khel district. The number could not be independently verified.

Kompong Cham provincial CNRP chief Seng Seang Ly said Mr. Rainsy addressed another 7,000 and 2,000 supporters at rallies there Sunday.

Mr. Seang Ly said the party president thanked the people for their votes on July 28, insisted that they had won the election, and urged them to prepare to demonstrate if it is required.

“Sam Rainsy said that in case the CPP doesn’t give us justice, a big demonstration will happen,” Mr. Seang Ly said.

Mr. Rainsy on Sunday warned that Cambodia was “headed for large protests” after the National Election Committee ruled out the prospect of letting the U.N. participate in an investigation into reports of widespread voting irregularities on election day.

Both the CPP and CNRP are claiming to have won a majority of seats in the National Assembly and with them the right to form the next government.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has already stated that he intends to form a new government, and has warned, citing his interpretation of the law, that he could get CNRP seats in Parliament for his own party if the opposition does not agree to sit in the new National Assembly.

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