PHNOM PENH — It was late evening around the Boeung Trabek area of Cambodia’s capital, and the Vietnamese-run cafés and carpentry shops on these dimly lit sidestreets were locking up for the night. One restaurant owner, who would not give his name, told The Edge Review that “politics is messy for us in this country,” explaining his reluctance to discuss in more detail the anti-Vietnamese speeches given by opposition leader Sam Rainsy since his return to Cambodia on July 19. Another shop-owner, speaking Khmer but with what a translator described as a Vietnamese accent, said she is a Cambodian from Kampong Cham, about a three-hour drive from Phnom Penh. She said that she neither comes from Vietnam nor has any Vietnamese ancestry – her apparent reluctance to divulge her background perhaps another signal of the fears held by Vietnamese migrants and Cambodians of Vietnamese descent in Cambodia’s fractious post-election period.
PHNOM PENH — Asia’s longest-standing leader was re-elected yesterday, but with a significantly reduced majority amid widespread allegations of dirty tricks. Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 68 out of 123 seats — according to early projections — 22 fewer than at the last election, and a big advance for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). It represents a relative victory for the CNRP’s popular leader, Sam Rainsy, who returned from exile nine days before the election, too late either to vote or stand as a candidate. Early reports suggested that the election was mostly conducted peacefully, although there was a stream of reports of irregularities. Even before the polls opened, the Opposition said that voter registration procedures were badly flawed, leaving as many as a million people disenfranchised.
SEKSAK, BATTAMBANG — On the back 7 to 10 percent growth over much of the last decade, Cambodia’s government insists it is trying to build what it calls a sustainable land policy, including reclaiming fertile terrain lost to landmines and bombs — legacies of the country’s years of civil conflict. But others say a corrupt and Chinese-influenced administration is trampling the rights of citizens in the name of economic development in what remains a country still recovering from long-finished wars. Until six months ago, the fields behind Ly Susmat’s house in Seksak village in the western Battambang province were not safe to walk. That was before the NGO Mines Advisory Group pitched down in the village to clear mines and unexploded ordnance, a dangerous and economically-debilitating legacy of civil war in a country where around 80% of the people depend on farming for a living. He has got some land to farm safely now, but that’s just a start. “I need capital to rent a plough, I want to grow highland rice here,” Ly Susmat says, waving an arm toward an 8,000 meter square plot of land outside Seksak, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in the west of the country.