The CNRP’s Goal Is to Build People Power, National Institutions

In his analysis of the latest political developments in Cambodia (June 14-15, page 1), Prak Chan Thul of Reuters describes the CNRP as having “faltered” on the chances of using the support of the people to grab power while Prime Minister Hun Sen “affirms his pre-eminence.”

His article critiques the CNRP as having missed opportunities and showing too much hesitation. I ask Mr. Chan Thul to see the forest for the trees, and the bigger picture of the real social change occurring in Cambodia.

Indeed, it is clear to see that the tide is turning in this country. Grass-roots and youth movements for change are shaking up the status quo and gained serious momentum during the July 2013 national election.

These movements are strengthened and amplified by the widespread use of social media sweeping the country. This fast-paced change makes it look as if the leadership of the opposition is acting too slowly.

In fact, the CNRP is acting with great intention and adherence to a new style of leadership that is based on moral responsibility and nonviolence.

Mr. Hun Sen wants nothing more than raw power against raw power. When the paratroopers and the machine guns beat and massacred the striking garment-factory workers on January 2 and 3, and Freedom Park was closed down the following day, the reality was clear: Mr. Hun Sen will never change, because he does not know how to.

The people, on the other hand, know that things need to change and that it begins with our own actions. Their commitment to justice and nonviolence should form the foundation of our nation.

The people have spoken. And we should honor them.

The game the CNRP wants to play is one that ends with Cambodia having independent national institutions that can peacefully sustain changes of power. That is why the CNRP continues to negotiate for political reforms to remain on the national agenda—electoral, judicial and administrative reforms.

Hiring thugs to maim protesters is not just unacceptable but a crime, and those who give the orders must face prosecution. Nothing remains opaque under rule of law. That is also on the CNRP’s agenda. Barricading Freedom Park to stop freedom of expression shows the total weakness of those in power and is yet another stain on our so-called “democracy.”

The people will continue to fight for freedom of speech, and no barbed wire is strong enough to permanently shut down Freedom Park.

The visits to free Freedom Park that I have led have become a symbol of hope, and each layer of barbed wire makes the people fight harder. Our white lotuses on their barbed wire are a symbol of our virtuous protest.

The release of the 25 human rights activists and workers on May 30 and the country’s daily strikes and protests are very good signs for those on the side of democracy building. The self-confidence of the people comes from the months of the CNRP occupying Freedom Park and post-election protests.

Nothing will stop Tep Vanny from telling the world how the Boeng Kak lake families have been destroyed because their land was sold to a Chinese company closely connected to a ruling party senator.

Across the country, people are standing up to protest land grabbing and forced evictions and organizing strikes to demand a living wage.

Thousands of monks have built networks across the country to preserve our Buddhist values which have been damaged by greed and the so-called win-win development concept. Even the power of the country’s Supreme Patriarch cannot stop the Independent Monks for Social Justice Movement that can mobilize a critical mass overnight.

Youths are creating their own information networks on social media, reporting “hot news” instantly and challenging the pro-government media.

When a strongman has nothing left but his usual tactics of breaking and dividing his opponents, we know that game is over. Building democracy is the only hope for Cambodia, and time is on the side of the people.

The opposition’s responsibility is to nurture the roots of the movement for change, and then to gain power through free and fair, democratic elections.

Mu Sochua is a lawmaker-elect for the opposition CNRP and also its director of public affairs.

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