Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a gathering of supporters in Virginia Wednesday the Cambodian people were ready to vote for a change in national leadership when elections come in July.
A failure of economic policies would lead to the change, he said, speaking at a dinner conference during a two-week trip to the US to gather support for his party ahead of the election campaign.
“So the people this time will not endure until death, as in the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said. “They truly will resist, and resist peacefully through the vote, to vote out the corrupt group that is making people poorer and poorer.”
Cambodia’s economy has grown at a rate of 9 percent to 10 percent over the last five years, but Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government are now facing inflation that has beleaguered the nation in recent months.
Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap said Sam Rainsy’s comments were made only in a bid to gain popularity ahead of the elections.
“We, the ruling party, have tried hard to defend the reputation and protect the confidence of all the people, who vote continually for the CPP to win,” he said. “And we are not concerned about anything at all.”
Sam Rainsy told his supporters in Virginia that Cambodia was facing many issues, including land eviction, land disputes, corruption, the discovery of oil, border demarcation, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deforestation and a decline in the fish harvest.
A Cambodian-American living in Alexandria, Va., Sophal Chhuong, said he supported Sam Rainsy 100 percent.
“What I am concerned with is the election, because there should be close monitoring that will not allow, for example, that I vote for the Sam Rainsy Party but Hun Sen wins,” Sophal Chhuong said.
Keang Vang, another Cambodian-American, who lives in North Carolina, said he spent 10 hours driving to hear Sam Rainsy speak on Wednesday.
He wanted to push Cambodia’s leaders to think about the country, he said.
“Neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand are moving well, but not Cambodia, so Cambodian leaders should unify and help rebuild the nation,” he said.
About 34 percent of Cambodia’s 14 million live under the poverty line, with 85 percent of them dependant on agriculture. More than 8 million people are registered to vote in July’s elections.