What do Cambodians think of Sam Rainsy

Rescue party with savior

Noun Sarin is 78 years old, has been a farmer and actually still is. Noun Sarin has also been a supporter of the opposition for 20 years, even if the parties that represent this opposition have changed names from time to time. Now Noun Sarin is waiting on the roadside in Kandul Province not far from the capital Phnom Penh for the National Rescue Party's election campaign, which has to come by:

"I can see how many people support the National Rescue Party and I really believe that this time it will win."

The National Rescue Party of Cambodia is led by two men, Kim Sokha and Sam Rainsy. While one, Kim Sokha, has been coordinating opposition work in the country for years and is officially pleased to be working with Rainsy ...

"After all, it is also normal for the party leader to be in the country when there is an election. Of course, that gives us even more sympathy."

... is the other, Sam Rainsy, the freedom hero of the Cambodians, as he was forced to live in exile for several years - a fate that has cemented his martyr status in the Khmer country. And so, upon his arrival in Phnom Penh - before the king had pardoned him, Rainsy faced eleven years imprisonment in Cambodia - appeared as a savior at his first speech at the airport:

"I came to save Cambodia."

He calls out to the cheering crowd of around 50,000 people.

Election campaigns every day for the past two weeks in Cambodia, especially in the capital. Supporters of the opposition are fighting against the widespread corruption after 28 years of rule by the People's Party with Prime Minister Hun Sen at its head. They no longer want the expropriations that take place every day in the country to make way for luxury investments. They want a suitable infrastructure in a Cambodia that should finally develop like the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

In the end everything should be different. Yan Khunthear runs a small roadside restaurant:

"I want the opposition to win and provide the government. Then I will have more fun and, above all, do better business."

After 28 years of autocratic rule by Hun Sens and his clique, the opposition is a mixed bag, borne primarily by the young people, those between 20 and 30, who make up around a third of the population and for whom the future is particularly important important is. Hor Kimsay is 25 and works as a reporter in Phnom Penh.

"Most government representatives compare Cambodia's level of development with the past. Of course it has gotten better. But when I compare Cambodia with other countries, it looks bad. We young people look ahead, we want more and better jobs, for example."

Tiara Sum is 23, studies law and finances her studies through night shifts in a bar in the capital. The young generation wants a change, she says:

"Many students say they want to vote for the opposition now. I hope for myself that the problems like corruption and land grabbing will be resolved. I would also like to see whether the opposition is able to do better."

The opposition also includes the former Khmer Rouge supporters who have turned from followers of the dictatorship to democrats, such as Ven Dara in the small town of Pailin near the Thai border. She is the niece of the former military commander of the Khmer Rouge and was a passionate fighter for Pol Pot's cause at the time. She still does not want to know anything about the death of up to two million people during the four years of Pol Pot rule, but now she is calling for democratic progress:

"The government has been in office for 28 years and the country is still not developed, the people are getting poorer and poorer, our National Rescue Party will bring democracy to the country and catch up with the level of development of other countries in the region."

Sam Rainsy's return to Cambodia has given the opposition yet another tailwind. Even if it won't be enough to win an election in the end, a much stronger opposition will certainly take a seat in parliament in Phnom Penh from next week. The undivided support of the Cambodian monks is also important for this strengthening, more clearly than has been in previous years. Bun Chenam is one of these monks:

"I love my country and I love Sam Rainsy. We have no real democracy here, many people have no jobs, the students have no future, everything has to change."

But the ruling party also knows how to campaign, even if it partly buys participation in the rallies. Students can get up to five dollars for waving flags. In any case, Hun Sens's son Hun Many, as a family member also a member of parliament, is enthusiastic:

"We are happy to all meet. The Cambodians are the backbone of the nation and the force with which we achieve peace and development."

Noun Sarin, the 78-year-old farmer in Kandul Province, also wants peace and development. But his peace and freedom hero is called Sam Rainsy:

"The rescue party will develop Cambodia, there will be no more fraud, no more exploitation of people and natural resources."