PHNOM PENH - Campaigning for Cambodia’s 2013 general parliamentary elections opened on Thursday, as political parties held rallies and began vying for the suppoer of some 9 million registered voters.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party gathered about 10,000 supporters at Diamond Island, who then marched through the capital together before dispersing into smaller groups to spread through the city’s neighborhoods to spread the party’s message.
“The CPP promises solemnly, if it wins, to continue to promote national solidarity and is ready to accept the result from a free and fair election,” the party’s honorary president, Heng Samrin, told supporters at the outset of the rally.
The CPP is campaigning on a number of main points: national solidarity and unification; national defense and security; the protection of the monarchy and democracy; the prevention of impunity; the promotion of freedom for citizens; and continuing reforms on land issues, the armed forces, the judiciary, forests, fisheries and natural resource management.
In an interview with VOA Khmer ahead of the campaign, Defense Minister Tea Banh said the CPP has a record for maintaining peace, which he called a “milestone and fundamental step” for the party.
“The most important thing is that we absolutely need to maintain full peace to allow Cambodia to have the opportunity for development,” he said. “This this is the core issue.”
Just outside the capital, in Kandal province, a rally for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party gathered near the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen, where supporters were strongly critical of the ruling party’s policies.
Rescue Party supporters pointed to the destruction of the nation’s forests, landlessness and the ongoing issues centered around corruption as major problems that the ruling party has failed to resolve.
Kem Sokha, who is the vice president of the party and is leading the campaign, called on people to recognize the need for new solutions.
About 10,000 supporters of the opposition rallied in the capital, marching from Freedom Park to sites around the city. From the backs of trucks, people chanted, “Change! Change!”
Meanwhile, about 1,000 young volunteers of the League of Democracy Party began their own campaigning, passing out leaflets through the city.
Parties have 30 days to campaign; Election Day is July 28. No clashes were reported during the rallies.