OP­PO­SI­TION HOPES TO END HUN SEN’S RULE

Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party eyes bell­wether lo­cal polls next month

New Straits Times - - World -

PH­NOM PENH

TUK-TUKS blar­ing pop mu­sic and flag-wav­ing sup­port­ers of Cam­bo­dia’s em­bat­tled op­po­si­tion led a rally yes­ter­day for up­com­ing elec­tions, a bell­wether for ef­forts to end the three­decade rule of strong­man Hun Sen in next year’s na­tional polls.

The June 4 vote in more than 1,600 com­munes will take the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture ahead of a gen­eral elec­tion next year that is ex­pected to go to the wire.

The op­po­si­tion Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) is des­per­ate to end Hun Sen’s rule, which they say is in­creas­ingly cor­rupt and re­pres­sive.

But the party has been squarely out­ma­neu­vered by the wily pre­mier, who pegs him­self as a sta­bil­is­ing force in coun­try still re­cov­er­ing from the hor­rors of the geno­ci­dal Kh­mer Rouge-era.

His Cam­bo­dia Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) draws the loy­alty of older agency said.

The agency said the fire might have been caused by a short cir­cuit in one of the trucks car­ried on board. Cam­bo­di­ans, who fear po­lit­i­cal change could re­open wounds.

The ri­val CNRP has been hemmed in by le­gal cases since los­ing a dis­puted 2013 gen­eral elec­tion by a whisker.

Ad­dress­ing thou­sands of op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers at a rally here yes­ter­day, CNRP leader Kem Sokha said po­lit­i­cal change was on the hori­zon.

“We have trav­elled through ob­sta­cles, rain­storms and light­ning... but the CNRP has man­aged to sur­vive and is step­ping for­ward,” he said to cheers from the sup­port­ers, many with CNRP

Res­cuers have evac­u­ated 141 peo­ple and re­cov­ered five bod­ies, the lo­cal chief of the search and res­cue agency, Mocham­mad Arifin, said. stick­ers on their cheeks.

A strong show­ing by the CNRP in the polls would send “shock­waves” through the rul­ing party, ac­cord­ing to Se­bas­tian Stran­gio, an expert on lo­cal politics.

“The CPP risks los­ing con­trol of a lower level of gov­ern­ment that they have con­trolled since the fall of the Kh­mer Rouge in 1979,” he added.

Con­versely weak sup­port for the CNRP could spell dis­as­ter in next year’s na­tional vote.

The CPP held a ri­val rally in the cap­i­tal, which also drew thou­sands. AFP

In Jan­uary, 23 lo­cal tourists were killed when a fire erupted in a boat car­ry­ing hun­dreds of rev­ellers to an is­land north of the cap­i­tal to cel­e­brate the New Year. AFP

EPA PIC

Smoke ris­ing from a burn­ing ferry in wa­ters off East Java prov­ince yes­ter­day.

AFP PIC

Sup­port­ers of Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party gath­er­ing dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign in Ph­nom Penh yes­ter­day.

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