Long Beach Protestors Question Fraud in Recent Cambodian Elections

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Long Beach residents march on Anaheim St. Monday to protest Cambodian election results. Photos by Brian Addison.

As Cambodia engages in a dispute over recent election results, Cambodian and Cambodian-American citizens of Long Beach took to the streets to protest in the hopes that a larger public presence will shed the international light on the possible election fraud in their home country.

The 5th Cambodian Parliamentary Election, held July 28, was called into dispute by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who claimed an estimated one million votes were lost in addition to over one million “ghost names” appearing in the election results. The opposing party, the long-in-power Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), claims that their party had rightfully won the majority of votes, seizing 19 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 5.13Using their legal right to organize here in the United States, locals were adamant about the irregularities of the election and emphasized that distance should not mean apathy.

“It’s important because it shows that even though we are not there in Cambodia, we are watching and listening and we care,” said Cambodian-American activist and musician Prachy Ly. “We are more united then ever and we here in the States are fortunate to get information from unlimited resources.”

Ly and other organizers, including the organizer of the protest itself, Pe Khorng, noted that the images hopefully generated by the protest—which also happened concurrently at the U.N. Building in New York City—have multiple effects. One is that Cambodia’s overwhelmingly young population, of which it is estimated that 70% of the country’s citizens are under the age of 30, will have hope knowing outsiders are paying attention.

Secondly—and much more tangibly—is to deter possible violence.

“We are fearful of where this could lead,” said protest organizer Pe Khorng. “The current government [of Prime Minister Hun Sen] has refused to admit fraud or form an independent group to look into the matter. With troops moving into Phnom Penh, we are deeply concerned that a peaceful confrontation will become bloody.”

Forming an independent group is key for many Cambodians here in Long Beach, who fear that the state body National Election Committee (NEC)’s look into the matter will be entirely biased. The NEC is widely considered to be heavily influenced by Hun Sen’s CPP—including a vitriolic stance from Ly, who bluntly calls Hun Sen a dictator.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 5.14“Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge, he’s been in power for 28 years—over 10,000 plus days,” Ly said. “He is the youngest and the longest serving dictator in the world, clinging onto power for dear life even it it means taking a life… History show us that one man can stop an army of tanks while a power-hungry, greedy dictator once living in golden palace can easily end up dead in back of a pick-up truck. I hope there will be no violence, but what is the price for peace?”

While that price is being weighed, the protestors will continue to urge action on behalf of the United Nations and the United States to look formally into possible acts of fraud and corruption.

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