Sam Rainsy Continues Hunger Strike at Pagoda

A day after city officials cleared the last of a group of flood victims from the park across from the National Assembly, opposition leader Sam Rainsy was continuing his hunger strike Thursday.

He said he would wait and see if more protesters came to the city seeking justice before deciding to end his fast.

“I feel a little bit weak, but my brain is still working,” he said. “I am waiting to hear that food distribution has improved.”

Sam Rainsy, who said he has lost 2 kg since he stopped eating Tuesday night, was resting at Wat Unalom after police dismantled his sleeping tent in the park. He received a glucose injection and said his blood pressure was dropping.

He had declared his hunger strike and begun sleeping in the park to demonstrate solidarity with up to 3,000 flood victims, who had come to Phnom Penh to protest inequities in the distribution of flood aid.

Earlier this week, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara gave the protesters a bag of rice each and shipped them home, saying the city needs to clear the park for the start of King Noro­dom Siha­nouk’s birthday celebration Sun­day. The Sam Rainsy Party took responsibility for a couple of hundred other protestors who missed the sweep.

The protesters, who had come to the city in recent days from eight provinces, had complained that officials of the dominant CPP were handing out flood aid to their friends and relations instead of to the neediest.

Sam Rainsy was quick to take up their cause, leading a protest march last week and announcing his hunger strike. After he pitched a tent to sleep in and began holding an impromptu fund-raiser in the park, the city took action Wednesday, dismantling the tent and shifting Sam Rainsy’s operation to the pagoda.

Sam Rainsy said later he didn’t believe his activities violated his agreement with Chea Sophara to stop holding demonstrations in the park in exchange for permission to build a stupa honoring those killed in the 1997 grenade attack.

“It isn’t a demonstration, it’s a food distribution,” he said Wednesday. “I am not doing this to criticize the government, but to get food to these poor people.”



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