Members of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement have called for a boycott of products from bottled water company Vital Premium Water, one of many local firms with ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family.
“This economic boycott is our first concrete initiative showing that we are – and will be – only engaged in peaceful and nonviolent actions in our endeavour to make democracy prevail in Cambodia,” said CNRM founder and former opposition leader Sam Rainsy in an email yesterday.
The “movement” was started by opposition figures living abroad, some of whom fled Cambodia to avoid an ongoing political crackdown.
Vital is under the umbrella of the NVC Corporation, chaired by Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana. According to Global Witness’s 2016 report, Hostile Takeover, Vital is promoted by the Ministry of Tourism and has the same registered address as more than 30 companies belonging to Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin and his family.
According to Rainsy, other brands being considered for boycotts include the petrol company Kampuchea Tela Co Ltd, which also has ties to the Hun family.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said civil society activists have used similar tactics in Cambodia in the past without any success, though he thought this endeavour could be more effective, as the Cambodia National Rescue Party “spirit” is still “very strong” despite the party’s forced dissolution.
Similar boycotts were enacted domestically in Myanmar in the 2000s, though regional expert Paul Chambers said the context in Cambodia was vastly different. “The Myanmar military was . . . under stringent, Western-led global sanctions. Cambodia’s regime is not nearly as sanctioned globally as was Myanmar,” he wrote via email.
Chambers added that civilians are not “as united in opposition against the state” and that the likelihood of collective action is slim.
Speaking to supporters in Melbourne yesterday, Rainsy called for members of the ruling CPP to secretly join his movement. “Criminal Hun Sen has no more tricks, and all of you should leave Hun Sen and join with CNRM all together to rescue our nation,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan brushed off both of Rainsy’s calls for action, however. “If you do not want the water, you can not have it yourself. No need to appeal or persuade people to stop drinking water, and no one is stupid enough to believe the rebel group,” he said.
Eysan added that CPP members would not follow Rainsy, who he accused of being “useless”. “His visit to Australia shows that he has no bush to hide in anymore. He goes to the US and it is useless, and he goes to EU and it is useless,” he said.
A representative of Vital was unavailable for comment due to the Lunar New Year holiday.