Sam Rainsy Returns to Cambodia
The arrival yesterday of Sam Rainsy marks a shift in the political landscape of Cambodia. Rainsy is the leader of the opposition and had been living for almost four years in self imposed exile in France after being sentenced to more than 11 years in a case that many believe was politically motivated. On the evening of the death of Hun Sen’s father, Rainsy was granted a royal pardon, opening up to him once again the doors of Cambodia, and the opportunity to come face to face with his political rival, Hun Sen.
There were an estimated 100,000 people lining the streets from the airport and in freedom park. Mostly young, urban supporters full of energy and filming everything with their smart phones, tablets and even laptops.
This new generation of internet savvy and politically aware young people are using social media, and overwhelmingly Facebook as a means to spread and share information, now when there is a protest in Phnom Penh it is liked and shared thousands of times. It is not yet clear what the significance of this these new voters is for the elections, or for the political climate of Cambodia generally, and it is not really clear how deep this seemingly new political awareness actually goes within those who are sharing and spreading the information; outrage and gossip also travel far on Facebook. However looking at the faces of the young supporters who lined the streets on the 7km walk back from the airport to Freedom Park, it was clear that this was genuine feeling on display, as echoes of the new slogan ‘Change’ rang out through the city.