Warnings of Violence if CPP Loses Election Fall on Deaf Ears

Amid the mounting threats of violence—be it through a coup or full-blown civil war—residents in Phnom Penh said Wednesday they were unperturbed by such an eventuality and that the country has progressed beyond the days of warfare and political upheaval.

“I’m not that worried. I think the country has adapted to the laws and if a party wants to do something, the law is in place,” said Chea Ponloeu, 23, a supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who was shopping at Kandal Market.

Ngor Kimly, 29, who was at the bustling O’Russei Market but declined to name her party affiliation, echoed that sentiment, saying that the climate in the country was not one of imminent war—despite what has been threatened.

“I’m not that worried because our country is at peace,” she said.

Those views differ entirely from the rhetoric that has been pushed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month, and other officials in the run-up to Sunday’s vote.

Prior to going silent on June 27—the first official day of election campaigning—Mr. Hun Sen threatened on numerous occasions that civil war would break out if the CNRP wins Sunday’s vote. During a speech in late April, Mr. Hun Sen said that if the CNRP wins, armed conflict would ensue, the country’s infrastructure would collapse and life would return to Khmer Rogue-era times.

Hun Many, the prime minister’s son and a CPP election candidate in Kompong Speu province, also warned during a campaign rally on Sunday that the current social order would disintegrate if the ruling party loses its grip on power.

Pushing the theme ever deeper into the realm of bewilderment, the owner of the popular ABC radio station on Tuesday predicted the CNRP would be ousted by the military if they ever came to power.

Critics of such rhetoric have said it is merely designed to install fear into those considering voting for the CNRP and highlights the level of fear among the CPP that they could lose ground in Sunday’s election.

Despite the rhetoric, in Phnom Penh the stockpiling of food, the exchanging of gold for dollars and the withdrawal of cash from the banks is far from anyone’s mind.

At five markets in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, vendors and gold merchants said there had been no rush of people buying food or trading in heirlooms for cash so far this week.

“Not many of my buyers mentioned or talked about the election, and even fewer discussed any turmoil after it,” said Lim Yut, 57, who sells dried seafood, vegetables and spices at Russian Market.

Across the city at Central Market, where nearly every gold merchant’s stand was adorned with a CPP poster, traders said it was “business as usual.”

“Both buying and selling have been quiet,” said Chan Sokheng, 41.

At O’Russei Market, Phim Phan, a 28-year-old food vendor, said she sold more bags of rice in the past three days than normal.

“People usually come to buy one 50-kg bag, but recently, I have sold five to six bags a day,” she said.

But Ms. Phan’s shop appears to be an anomaly, as other food vendors at O’Russei said there had been no apparent food stockpiling by the public.

“Before the commune elections last year, sales were good, but this year before the national election, it’s quiet,” said vendor Chan Thou, 54, who sells dried fish.

“No turmoil will happen. I have no plans to do anything,” said Norng Vannarith, 33, a motocycle-taxi driver at O’Russei Market.

“Whoever wins, it will be the same.”

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