neak loeung, Prey Veng province – Thach Reng pulled up in his Toyota Camry to a group of women in the Neak Loeung market and handed them a fistful of Light of Liberty Party leaflets.
“It’s good news,” he told them as the potential voters ran up to take the papers.
“Give us some money too!” one shouted as the car pulled away.
It’s a common response, he said Wednesday on his first campaign trip to Prey Veng province.
“The CPP has spoiled them with their gifts,” he said while pulling up to a group of moto taxi drivers to distribute more party literature.
Thach Reng has spent the last three weeks blanketing the countryside with leaflets, driving up and down the national roads handing out literature to vendors or pedestrians standing or walking along the roadside.
He also does high-speed campaigning while reaching out his window to hand out fliers as his car passes travelers in the backs of pick-up trucks.
With little money and little media access, there’s little else the 65-year-old parliamentarian said he can do. He’s made similar trips to Kandal, Kompong Thom and Kompong Cham provinces and once drove all the way to Banteay Meanchey and back. He said he’s handed out 70,000 leaflets.
On the way to Prey Veng town, he pulled up to the Neak Loeung CPP headquarters and tossed a handful of leaflets in front of the gate.
“We’re going to send them a message,” he said and chuckled.
Thach Reng split from the Son Sann faction of the BLDP to launch his own party in March, hoping to trade on his fame as the only opposition lawmaker not to flee Cambodia or kowtow to the CPP after July’s factional fighting.
But he admitted campaigning as a small party with few resources is like trying to swim against the current of the Mekong River. He has spent about $35,000, mostly raised from overseas Cambodians, since launching the party in March.
It’s a paltry sum compared with the millions he claimed Sam Rainsy, Funcinpec and the CPP are spending.
As he got out of his car to hand out literature to vendors in Prey Veng town’s central market, many recognized him once he told them his name.
“People all over know my name and voice from radio, but they don’t know my face,” he said.
He gave them a small card with his picture and a promise that they can exchange it for a free visit to his office if he becomes prime minister—an unlikely occurrence, he admitted.
© 1998 – 2013, Stew Magnuson. All rights reserved.