Travelers who faced delays on their way to Phnom Penh International Airport due to severe traffic jams said on Friday that despite the inconvenience they were excited to see the tens of thousands who had gathered to welcome opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
“Everyone is so excited, it’s lovely,” said Dirk de Graaf, a Dutch national who works in the hotel industry in Phnom Penh and was at the airport to catch a flight to Bangkok. Mr. de Graff said that he had left two hours earlier than he usually would, but he still had to walk part of the way carrying his bags. “I had taken a taxi, but at one point the taxi just couldn’t go any further…the last kilometer was just impossible so I walked with my backpack. It’s crazy, everyone is so happy,” he said, smiling.
Ellen Yee, a law professor from the U.S. who was staying in Phnom Penh for three weeks to work with the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said that she was intrigued by the dynamics of the election campaign.
“You can’t be here and not try to find out more about it,” she said, adding that she had spoken to many Cambodians about the upcoming election and—forewarned—had left the city center at 6:30 a.m. to catch her 11 a.m. flight.
“In the U.S. there are lots of rallies, posters, speeches and photo ops so you don’t necessarily need to show up at gatherings for information. My sense is that this is more meaningful here,” she said of the large crowd in front of the airport.
An American tourist who only gave his first name, Ron, because his sons work with government entities in Phnom Penh, even stayed at a guesthouse across the street from the airport to avoid the expected delays because of the crowds at the airport.
“I got over here at 7 [a.m.] and it was no problem. Throughout the morning, I could see the energy rising,” he said. Sitting next to the check-in, Daniel Gillard, an American dancer working in Germany, said that he and his brother were less lucky, as no one had informed them of the rally.
“We were totally unaware. My brother got on an earlier flight and he was quite nervous that he wouldn’t make it,” Mr. Gillard said. He added that at one point when traffic had completely halted, he and his brother left their tuk-tuk to carefully make their way through the crowd “without burning our legs on the exhausts.”
“It was crazy, the traffic, the people who were screaming and yelling—it was really exciting,” Mr. Gillard said.