CNRP President Sam Rainsy nearly exhausted all manner of wheeled, motorized transport during his opposition party’s latest protest procession through Phnom Penh on Wednesday, at one point even getting behind the handlebars of a tuk-tuk.
It was the fourth straight day of what the CNRP says will be daily protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government until he either steps down or agrees to a do-over of July’s national election, which the opposition accuses the CPP of stealing through fraud.
With CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha at Mr. Rainsy’s side, the two men started out Wednesday’s procession from Freedom Park riding slowly down Street 51, each standing on the back of a motorbike and waving a Cambodian flag. After turning west on Sihanouk Boulevard, the men started to walk for a few hundred meters before Mr. Rainsy abruptly hopped into the driver’s seat of a tuk-tuk to give two lucky monks a ride. The opposition leader looked a little uncertain of his driving skills, and his security detail kept a careful eye and an occasional hand on the brakes, but he managed to maintain a steady pace.
Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha finally ended the procession, with several thousand supporters trailing them on foot and chanting “Hun Sen must go!,” on the back of a pickup truck back to Freedom Park. Traffic police helped clear a way for the procession, which received at least a few cheers and waves from bystanders at most corners.
Back on stage, Mr. Rainsy turned to a favorite trope and compared the current government to the Pol Pot regime.
“How does Hun Sen mistreat [people]? How does a corrupt regime mistreat people? How does a dictatorial regime mistreat people? And how does a regime that brings in illegal immigrants mistreat people?” he asked the excited crowd. “It is not different from the Pol Pot regime and now it has reached that point, so there are many people who join the demonstration.”
Mr. Sokha told the crowd that they had defied the government’s expectations by continuing to turn out to protest, and called for even more supporters to join them.
“We have clearly shown that the people’s will is not declining,” he said. “You know the CPP and their illegal government said let us do it [demonstrate] and the people won’t come, but now you see.”
He repeated the opposition’s ultimatum.
“We want a re-election, but if you don’t do it, please step down,” he said to loud cheers. “We cannot stay silent, we cannot stop demonstrating, as long as we have not achieved justice.”
Choun Kom, who came from Kandal province to take part in this week’s demonstrations, said she had no intention of stopping.
“I think the protesters are a little bit tired, but they will keep coming and continue to demonstrate because we want to change the leadership,” she said.