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In Autobiography, a Chronicle of Political Opposition

 In an interview with VOA Khmer, Sam Rainsy said he wanted to finish the book ahead of the July 28 elections.
In an interview with VOA Khmer, Sam Rainsy said he wanted to finish the book ahead of the July 28 elections.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has a new book out, one that he says chronicles his ideas for the development of democracy in Cambodia. In an interview with VOA Khmer, Sam Rainsy said he wanted to finish the book ahead of the July 28 elections.

The book—“We Didn’t Start the Fire: My Struggle for Democracy in Cambodia”—is in part an autobiography of the former government minister who became the leading opponent of the ruling party. But he says it is also a road map for a way forward.

Sam Rainsy said the book was a way to “restate my stance in defending the nation and improving human rights and freedom for Cambodians.”

“Since I was young, I had the idea to make the country progress, and not allow foreign countries to swallow our nation or allow our nation to be eliminated, or inundated,” he said.

Sam Rainsy spoke to VOA Khmer by phone from France, where he remains in exile, unable to return to Cambodia for the upcoming July elections and facing imprisonment on charges he says are politically motivated.

His book, he said, is a way to talk about his life, education in France and return to help Cambodia become a modern, developed country.

“Cambodia is facing more difficulties than some other countries that try to emerge from a dictatorial regime, because Cambodia not only has a despotic, repressive regime, but we have a neighboring country that has had an ambition to swallow our country and abolish our race for hundreds of years,” he said.

Sam Rainsy, a former economic minister, said he remains very sensitive to the threat from Vietnam, which he says has victimized Khmers living in the Mekong Delta, which once belonged to Cambodia and is called by most Cambodians Kampuchea Krom. Khmer Krom have become a minority in their own homeland, he said.

“Now we are facing the same danger in Cambodia today,” he said. “You see, illegal foreign immigrants keep entering, and if we are not careful, our country will be another Kampuchea Krom.”

Cambodia suffers from leaders who “work for the foreigners,” he said. “Our struggle is very difficult.” The two sides cannot talk, he said, “because they defend foreign interests and I defend Cambodian interests. That’s why in my book, I appeal to Cambodians who have Cambodian blood and Cambodian souls to unify and defend our territory for a timely rescue of our nation.”

The July 28 election is the “last chance,” he said. “Because five more years will be too late. Foreigners are coming to loot Cambodian property, and to grab work we have for Cambodians, and natural resources, like land, forests and fish. Cambodians are poorer and poorer.”

Cambodia remains vulnerable to corruption, he said.

“When I was the Minister of Economy and Finance, in the first term, I fought against corrupt officials,” he said. “It’s now 10 times worse, compared to the corruption at the time.”

Sam Rainsy said he had successfully battled corruption to bring money into the government coffers, which helped development, reduced poverty and helped pay civil servants, soldiers, police and teachers.

“What I have succeeded at before, I plan to do again,” he said. “I will do it on a large scale, and do it for the long term. This is a mission to restore the country and rescue it.”