Tag Archives: CNRP

Street Protests Grow Ahead of Christmas

Protestors continue to take to the streets in the thousands, a week after Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s surprise announcement that the CNRP would begin daily public demonstrations in Phnom Penh. Earlier in the month CNRP representatives had indicated that they would be avoiding physical confrontations with the current government, and instead seek a negotiated settlement to the disputed 2013 election results. Perhaps under pressure from their supporters, the opposition party has done a 180 – holding large-scale public marches through the heart of the capital. They walk through the streets every day chanting derisive slogans against the unpopular incumbent Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and in years of visiting this country, I’ve never seen so many people united under one banner.

I’ve been out of town on an assignment for Handicap International (more on that after the holidays), and haven’t really been covering the breaking news side of Cambodia. Yesterday I was able to get back out and reacquaint myself with the political pulse of the country, and was completely caught off guard by the sheer energy and numbers of the demonstrators. Truth be told, I had expected the protests to die down substantially after a few days, when economic necessity demanded that people go back to their jobs; instead the crowd seems to be growing. I’ve got more things on the go than I can handle right now, so I doubt I’ll be a source of total news coverage on the events as they unfold, but I wanted to give a short update on the political climate as we move into the holidays. Merry Christmas!

CNRP supporters form a wall to hold the front elements of the protest from moving too far ahead of the main body of the demonstration.

CNRP supporters form a wall to hold the front elements of the protest from moving too far ahead of the main body of the demonstration.

CNRP leaders rally their supporters.

CNRP leaders rally their supporters.

A bus is stuck in as the line of marchers floods South along Monivong Boulevard.

A bus is stuck in traffic as the line of marchers floods South along Monivong Boulevard.

A Japanese photographer seizes the opportunity to get some unique angles from a CNRP vehicle. Though the protests are highly publicized in foreign media, the Khmer newspapers make no reference to the demonstrations at all. Instead they run front page stories about the recent troubles in neighbouring Thailand.

A Japanese photographer seizes the opportunity to get some unique angles from a CNRP vehicle. Though the protests are highly publicized in foreign media, the Khmer newspapers make no reference to the demonstrations at all. Instead they run front page stories about the recent troubles in neighbouring Thailand.

Protestors move the paradise hotel, shutting down the large intersection.

Protestors move the paradise hotel, shutting down the large intersection.

A CNRP supporter shouts anti-government, pro-change messages through a tuk-tuk mounted sound system.

A CNRP supporter shouts anti-government, pro-change messages through a tuk-tuk mounted sound system.

The demonstration stretches through downtown Phnom Penh.

The demonstration stretches through downtown Phnom Penh.

 

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Monks Begin Protest Marches Ahead of Human Rights Day

The 2013 International Human Rights Day on December 10th will mark one of the largest and most coordinated anti-government protests in Cambodian history. The current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has been running a de facto one party state in the small Southeast Asian nation, and has an abysmal human rights record. But the tides of fortune seem to be turning on the region’s longest ruling strongman, with his Cambodian People’s Party losing 55 assembly seats in the 2013 national election – elections that were widely suspected of being rigged.

Multiple demonstrations will converge on Phnom Penh’s National Assembly building, including large groups of politically active Buddhist monks. Though monks participation in protests has been an emerging trend in Cambodia recently, the scale of the actions planned for December 10th will be the largest yet. Separate parties will travel down every major national highway, combining forces and joining similar protests from the main opposition party, and the garment workers union. The monks will be walking for roughly 10 days, spreading their social views to the villages they pass through.

Monks prepare to sleep for the night before waking early to begin their march.

Monks prepare to sleep for the night before waking early to begin their march.

Monks begin to wake at 5am in Wat Baray, their temporary home for the night.

Monks begin to wake at 5am in Wat Baray, their temporary home for the night.

Monks form up begin their day's march to Phnom Penh.

Monks form up begin their day’s march to Phnom Penh.

A woman asks for blessing outside Wat Baray, the starting point for the march to Phnom Penh.

A woman asks for blessing outside Wat Baray, the starting point for day’s leg of the march towards Phnom Penh.

The procession includes monks and citizen activist groups from communities affected by government policies.

The procession includes monks and citizen activist groups from communities affected by government policies.

Monks pass local traffic along national highway 6.

Monks pass local traffic along national highway 6, roughly 150km away from Phnom Penh.

Villagers wait in front of their homes along the highway, presenting alms of money, rice, and water to the marching monks. In return the monks offer water blessings recite the Dharma.

Villagers wait in front of their homes along the highway, presenting alms of money, rice, and water to the marching monks. In return the monks offer water blessings and recite the Dharma.

A villager kneels for a Buddhist water blessing along the highway to Phnom Penh.

A villager kneels for a Buddhist water blessing along national highway 6.

 

These images are from just one group of monks, along only one of the marching routes. When they finally merge in the capital next week, their numbers will have swollen into the hundreds. Though everyone is hoping that the government will not react harshly in light of it being Human Rights Day, foreign journalists are stocking up on anti-teargas supplies and riot protection gear in anticipation of violence.

The Ruom Collective will be dispatching three photographers and three writers to cover various aspects of the events as they unfold, and we will be sharing them as the happen.

Posted in Blog, Cambodia, Protest Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Cambodia: One Year Later

It was while I was living in a tent in northern Alberta, working on a four month project about Canadian tree planters, that I made the decision to move to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’d visited the Kingdom of Cambodia several times in the past, most recently last October when I stayed for a month to document the aftermath and consequences of the forced evictions in the community of Borei Keila. To avoid spouting off cliches about the friendly people or vibrancy of life, I’ll just say this: it is an impossible place to forget. When it came time to move on from Canada’s northern forests, Phnom Penh was the first city that came to mind. Often exciting, sometimes sad, and nearly always interesting, Cambodia was a natural choice.

But the city that I left in 2012 is not the same one that I find myself in now. In a relatively short period of time, Cambodia has undergone some dramatic political changes, ones I couldn’t have imagined a year earlier. The Kingdom I left was a virtual dictatorship, with President Hun Sen and his questionable human rights record having held onto power for 27 years. The leader of the official opposition party, Sam Rainsy, had been living in exile in France since 2005, and it seemed as though Cambodians were unlikely to have much say in how their nation was governed. Several protests I attended, aimed at calling international attention to the issues of land grabbing and forced evictions, were met with harsh police crackdowns – road blocks and riot shields were the norm, not the exception.

The city I find myself in now, however, is charged with political energy. Sam Rainsy has returned from exile and is at the head of mass rallies with thousands of supporters marching through the streets. Citizens and monks alike wear the orange band of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, something that seemed unimaginable a year earlier.

It should be noted that Rainsy and CNRP is by no means a magic-bullet solution to Cambodia’s numerous social problems, and is not necessarily a better prospective leader. And Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party has no intention of relinquishing power meekly – as demonstrated by the deadly shooting of a protestor by government forces last month. The ruling party is still very much in control of the nation. The recent changes in Cambodia’s political climate are by no means decisive, and there will certainly be countless bumps along the road to democratization. But the fact that there are changes of any sort after nearly three decades of stagnation is a feat in and of itself.

Neither Cambodians nor foreign journalists have a clear idea of what the future will hold for the country, but it is, without a doubt, an interesting time to live in the Kingdom.

Sam Rainsy leads a CNRP march through central Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy leads a CNRP march through central Phnom Penh.

Monks take part in a CNRP political rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.

Monks take part in a CNRP political rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.

Thousands of CNRP supporters gather in Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, unopposed by police.

Thousands of CNRP supporters gather in Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, unopposed by police.

Monks wear the orange armband of the CNRP.

Monks wear the orange armband of the CNRP.

 

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