Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Commune elections 2017: Snapshots from the campaign trail



Friday, May 26th - Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Erin Handley
Why I’m voting: ‘When I am sick, they don’t drop by’

Image: Heng Chivoan

Svay Chreb, 45, is disillusioned with her current Meanrith commune chief, from the CPP. They have refused to issue her an ID card for the poor, which she had in the past and would help her have access to healthcare.

A widow with two daughters, she has been riddled by various illnesses – “it’s why I’m so thin” – and can’t always afford medication.

Living on half a hectare of rice paddy fields, she is often too unwell to work and instead sells snails for $1 a kilo to get by.

“The current commune and village chiefs don’t care about us. When I am sick, they don’t drop by,” she said. “Because my daughter is sick, she needs to see the doctor every month. Sometimes we skip it. We could earn $1 per day, but we cannot save it because we need to spend it to eat.”

Image: Heng Chivoan

Keo Vibol, 36, smiles as she comforts her young son. She sits with her mother, Srey Em, 61, at a street-side store in Kampot province. The store is lined with little Cambodian People’s Party flags. Em is married to a local village chief, and both her and Vibol are staunch supporters of the ruling party.

“I have voted for them three times already. This will be the first time for me,” she said. “They build the roads near my house, and when there is a fire, the commune chief calls people to help.

Em adds she is grateful to the CPP for local development.

“I support the CPP because it helped to rescue us from Pol Pot. Now I am happy with everything,” she said. “Any individual can support any party they prefer, but for me, it is CPP only.”

Image: Heng Chivoan

Chay Hong, 53, sells duck eggs on the streets of Phnom Penh as a Khmer National United Party rallies past.

“I feel very happy and excited to see the rally,” she said.

Originally from Prey Veng, Hong said she wouldn’t be voting for the CPP.

“The current party is just not working,” she said.

Nearby, Prak Srey Neath, 28, stands at a pharmacy, holding an infant in her arms. She is an official at the Ministry of Interior in Russei Keo district, and one key issue for her is rampant bag-snatching.

“I want to see some more changes, like making public services more timely, and I think the capacities of the officials are still limited,” she said.

“If there are better, more competent candidates, it is good because now the local authorities are limited to those who are CPP.”


Friday, May 26th, 2017
Erin Handley
More money, more problems for the LDP

Supporters of the League of Democracy Party donate money to the party at a rally in Takhmao on Friday. "I will not accept more than 1,000 riel (25 cents)," said party leader Khmer Veasna. "I will blame you and make you embarrassed in front of everyone if you give more than 1,000 riel."

Read more about Cambodia's small parties.



Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Mech Dara
Monkeying around in Phnom Penh

CNRP supporters dance on the back of a truck as they drive through the capital.



Monday, May 22 - Friday, May 26th, 2017
Post staff

View from the provinces:

How the campaigns played out last week

On Monday we reported from Kampong Cham, where Seang Chet - a former Sam Rainsy Party Commune Chief who was jailed last year after being swept up in authorities’ investigation of an alleged love affair between CNRP President Kem Sokha and a hairdresser - is hard at work campaigning.

However Chet’s name will not appear on the ballot on June 4th. Not eligible to run because his prison term prevented him from registering to vote, Chet has found a surrogate to run as a CNRP candidate in Srok commune: his wife, Sreng Sokhoeun.
Chet said he has made it clear to his constituents – if they agree with him, they should vote for Sokhoeun. “Even if my wife stays at home, they know they should vote for her,” he said. (Full story here.)

Seang Chet uses a loudspeaker to announce the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s policies as his rally passes through Kampong Siem district. Ananth Baliga

On Tuesday we looked at a David-versus-Goliath style contest playing out in Siem Reap’s Sala Kamroeuk commune, where the youngest CNRP candidate, Chen Sokngeng, is going up against CPP old-timer Sam Lan. Sokngeng was just 11 years old when Lan, now 60, first took office.

Instead of shying away from discussing his age, the 26-year-old is confident he can use it as a tool to appeal to the commune’s younger voters.

“The youth are wishing for change. The public services for citizens are not transparent. So, the youth don’t want to see this. And the youth want me to bring new ideas, new development,” he said.

But Lan has proactively made his young opponent’s age a campaign issue, telling voters he won’t be able to handle the rigours of local administration.

“At 26 he is younger than my son. A person of 26 cannot even manage a family, so how can he lead a whole community?” he asked. (Full story here.)

CNRP candidate Chen Sokngeng (left), 26, is mounting a challenge against three-time sitting CPP Commune Chief Sam Lan (right) in Siem Reap province’s Sala Kamroeuk commune. Ananth Baliga

In Battambang on Wednesday, we walked to court with O’Char commune chief candidate Sin Chan Pov Rozet, long considered a rising star of the CNRP.

The 31-year-old politician, who in 2012 became a second deputy commune chief after an upstart campaign, is one of a handful of opposition candidates who have found themselves swept up in court cases that they say are politically motivated.

With a crowd of more than 100 supporters in tow, and many more joining along the way, Chan Pov Rozet attended Battambang Provincial Court in response to a summons over a land dispute case. (Full story here.)

Commune chief candidate Sin Chan Pov Rozet leads a walk back to O’Char commune after being questioned at Battambang Provincial Court. Ananth Baliga

On Thursday we examined the race closer to the capital in Svay Pak commune, where 47 CNRP activists made headlines this month by allegedly defecting to the ruling party. CPP officials revelled in the events, pointing to divisions within the party, while CNRP officials scrambled to deny that the defections ever took place. Such spectacles are not uncommon in Cambodia; so what causes them? Read our analysis here.

We also covered a rare public debate between Cambodian politicians, held between wannabe chiefs in Takeo province’s Trapeang Thom Khang Cheung commune, where a highly partisan crowd enthusiastically cheered their chosen candidates’ responses.

The CNRP candidate emphasised his party’s plan to give each commune $500,000 a year for development, while the CPP candidate said his party had “liberated the country and brought peace, freedom, democracy and development.” Audience responses were, unsurprisingly, mixed. (Full story here.)

A side street leading to Phnom Penh’s Svay Pak commune, the site of recent defections, is flanked by a CPP billboard on one side and a CNRP billboard on the other. Andrew Nachemson

On Friday we reported from the border town of Poipet, where the CNRP is hoping to capitalise on discontent with poor infrastructure, protests by vendors who sell their wares in neighbouring Thailand, and political cases – such as that of Chao Veasna, a CNRP second deputy chief who has been in jail since February.

Months shy of commune elections, Veasna was arrested and promptly sent to pre-trial detention for allegedly inciting a 2015 riot. “I just want to ask – if I had made a mistake why didn’t they arrest me in 2015?” Veasna said over a prison phone. “When the election approached and they could not get support like me, is that when they put me in jail instead?”

Poipet recently made national headlines for a more absurd reason, when local union leader Mang Puthy was charged for allegedly hitting immigration police official Chhean Pisith with his car.

When a video clip of the alleged vehicular assault emerged, showing Puthy’s car moving almost imperceptibly when Pisith abruptly collapses to the ground in front of it, the official instantly became a national joke.

Puthy, who was at the time a CNRP official but has since quit, believes there is a swelling disquiet in Poipet that could see the main opposition party make bigger gains. (Full story here.)
Motos bounce down a potholed commercial street in Poipet town, where the lack of good roads, along with a series of out of the ordinary political happenings, seems to be at the top of residents’ minds as commune elections approach. Ananth Baliga



Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Post staff
The body (of water) politic: CNRP floats message of change

The CNRP’s campaign in the Takeo district of Angkor Borei took to the water today, with supporters swapping their usual road rallies for a fleet of small boats.


Pictures via Facebook.



Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Kong Meta and Andrew Nachemson
‘I am scared to talk about politics’

Training sessions have been taking place across the country to teach election observers proper voting procedures for June 4th. At Hun Sen Champuvoin High School in Phnom Penh, seventeen men and two women were quizzed today on their ballot box know-how. (Full story here.)

Luy Sopharin, a 21-year-old former student, said she will be an election observer because the process interests her, but she is too afraid to become active in a specific party. “I am scared to talk about politics, I don’t want to attach myself to a party,” she said. “My parents are happy for me to do this because they see I am curious to learn.”

The group faced questions including:

At 6 o'clock, are you allowed to get into the election room?

What time does the election start?

Who are the party officials present to observe the election station?

Is there a place to let people vote confidentially?



Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
Mech Dara
Takeo locals give verdicts on debate

“The CPP’s answers won over my heart because they have done good development in this commune. They built the roads and schools and the other infrastructure, while the CNRP has not done anything for the commune,” 55-year-old Chea Ron said. “We cannot trust them.”

Chhim Phal, 76, disagreed.

“Among the five parties, there is only Cambodia National Rescue Party because it is the only one that can solve national problems. In this commune, in my experience, the majority of people support the Cambodia National Rescue Party. It can lead the country because it has good policies.”

“Although the CPP puts pressure on people, they still want change. During the debate, many people applauded the CPP’s candidate. People want to show their support on the outside ... let's see on election day whether they vote for him or not.”



Tuesday, May 23th, 2017
Niem Chheng
O'Char commune chief candidate speaks outside court

“My name is Rozet and I have come to the court at six o'clock according to my second summons. I came with my lawyer.

“I hope that after I answer they will allow me to return to my election campaign in O'Char commune, in order to gain support from people to allow the CNRP to take over. Thanks to the people of O'Char.”

O'Char second deputy commune chief Sin Chan Pov Rozet outside Battambang Provincial Court before being questioned for the second time in a land dispute case. (Full story here).



Tuesday, May 23th, 2017
Ananth Baliga and Niem Chheng
A show of support on Sin Chan Pov Rozet’s court date

“I came here to support the O’Char commune chief [the CNRP’s Sin Chan Pov Rozet, who was called to Battambang Provincial Court for questioning over a land dispute case].

“I heard that she was summoned to the court, so I came here to encourage her, to make her feel strong and brave, and not to be nervous with the intimidation.”

Longtime Boeung Kak activist, known as “Mummy”, at a market in Battambang province.



Monday, May 22th, 2017
Ananth Baliga and Niem Chheng
Vendors cash in on hungry politicos

“These rallies are good for me. I came here a half hour ago and I have already sold thirty boiled corn cobs.

“The last time I went to a bigger CNRP rally I sold 200. I will go to any party's rally or forum as long as my corn sells very quickly.”

Phany, 50, sitting outside a forum held by local council candidate Sin Rozeth in Battambang province's O'Char commune.



Sunday, May 21th, 2017
Mech Dara
Why I’m voting: ‘Children are getting more stupid’

“I joined the CNRP campaign because I believe my children and grandchildren are being destroyed. Drugs have been increasingly coming to the country. Why is that?

”They [the CPP] said they brought peace to Cambodia and education to our children, but it seems that children are becoming more and more stupid, and crazier and crazier. Some threaten or even kill their parents because the parents do not give them what they ask for.”

A grandmother from Takeo explains why she is voting for the opposition.



Saturday, May 20th, 2017
Jenni Reid
The online election


In a tuk-tuk on the way home from the opposition CNRP’s first rally of the campaign period, dressed in a CNRP hat and CNRP shirt, Meatphum Khnom - as he calls himself on Facebook - scrolls through social media on his phone, also emblazoned with the CNRP logo. He is looking through his own posts, which consist of dozens of photos, videos and live streams taken of the party’s activities today alone.

Meatphum Khnom - and thousands like him - is emblematic of the social media revolution that has overtaken Cambodian politics since the 2013 national elections, when parties first began to realise the power of Facebook as a medium for reaching voters. Saturday's rally of thousands was shared and re-shared by thousands more, as support for both parties poured out on social media. With phones all but glued to most people’s hands at the events, and live video from the Facebook pages of party leaders a daily occurrence, influence in the online world is now just as important for candidates as it is offline.



Saturday, May 20th, 2017
Jenni Reid and Erin Handley
Campaign season kicks off in the capital

CPP supporters drive down Sotheros Blvd.

CPP supporters wait near Wat Phnom to join a rally in the capital.

CNRP supporters dance in the rain as they ride in convoy through Phnom Penh.

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