LONG BEACH - Cambodians who go to the polls for July’s parliamentary elections will face two major choices, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and the new opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The new opposition represents a combination of two former party leaders, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, both of whom were in Long Beach earlier this month, looking for funding and support ahead of the election.
This California city is not known for an abundance of political participation by its Cambodian residents. But community organizer Tith Tippana hopes to change that for the Rescue Party.
In an interview with VOA Khmer at his Long Beach home, he said the hard part was convincing Cambodian-Americans here that the two opposition leaders share the same goals.
“The difficulty is that, primarily, Cambodians think we have two different paths—but actually these two paths have only one purpose, which is change,” he said. “So the difficulty is to combine the two leaders.”
Tith Tippana recently hosted a meeting between the two opposition leaders and more than 700 residents in a Long Beach banquet hall. Nearly 300 people had to be turned away, he said.
That’s a lot of participation from the largest Cambodian-American community in the United States, which could help allay the concerns of other, smaller communities, he said.
“Long Beach is a place for our fellow Cambodians to learn from one another,” he said. “So on the political stage, if Long Beach residents are involved, the world will be involved as well.”
Tith Tippana said that the joining of the two parties will help in the upcoming election in Cambodia, where the Rescue Party will run against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for parliamentary seats and the premiership.
Long Beach supporters raised just $20,000. But Tith Tippana said he senses a change for this election, which he called a turning point for Cambodia.
“Cambodians are not stupid anymore,” he said. “They must have seen something, that’s why the came. Now they have hope, they listen to news. They’ve seen that, oh, the CNRP is a real party that can compete with the current party.”