photographer : Chan Makara Khim


With the elections done and dusted in Cambodia it was evident that the usual discontentment manifesting through increased open racism towards the Vietnamese was present amidst a heightened paranoia around the ballot boxes. Generally though it seems that anyone one who would side with the current Cambodian People's Party (CPP) government in power within Cambodia would be subject to racial abuse as if they were Vietnamese/working for the Vietnamese regardless of whether they were actually Vietnamese or not, but its no surprise given the constant claims of vote fixing at every election for the past few decades helped along by a general reluctance for government change in a system that suited certain influential figures on the take and was most probably being rigged in some way or other to various extents. 

Maybe they'd be wise to keep their perceived struggle to one of social/political party change rather than one of seemingly trying to maintaining an artificially constructed Khmer identity through using the Vietnamese as scapegoats. Generally I'm inclined to think that many of these so called Khmer people are more entrenched with Vietnamese blood lines than many would even like to admit let alone show, (at least for those that are actually aware of it) despite the "new" pure Khmer identity many have created for themselves.

The only thing I can gather is that the decades of discontentment towards the current government by certain sections of "Khmer" society has finally come to a head which has prompted a seemingly stronger tangible push to change the governments face with a new political party after many decades. But as the carefully constructed story plays out, it would seem that the Khmer people would apparently have even greater reason to vote in a new ruling political party in light of the so called claimed political fall out between the current ruling party leader Hun Sen and Obama, which is said to have prompted the threat of cuts in millions of dollars of annual US Aid if Hun Sens current ruling party should remain in power.

Millions of dollars of actual spendable cash might not seem much against the working budgets of many developed regions of the world, but in Cambodia the money from US Aid that is allocated to all the various charity organisations that provide a kind of unofficial supplementary infrastructure of government across Cambodia's numerous provinces that more directly interfaces with the population as well as providing the all essential aid, relief and actual employment for those that work for the charity organisations is about to disappear if the ruling party should remain in power. 

Its also been claimed that Hun Sen has flippantly responded by saying that the loss of U.S. Aid would be of no consequence to him as he would just get aid from the Chinese instead, but evidently this assertion just wasn't good enough for many members of staff working for certain established charities within Cambodia operating under funding of U.S. Aid who have turned out in their droves to show support for the challenging party headed by Sam Rainsay. Even those who can't actually officially vote if the many user submitted Facebook posts were anything to go by were backing Rainsay's efforts.

Despite a seeming greater consciousness of the Facebooking voting Khmer public demonstrating their want of greater fairness and transparency at the ballot boxes, I very much doubt we'll see much of a change in the overall political hold despite the numbers amidst the carefully orchestrated game of chess for a ruling outcome that was already decided for the main part long before the voting even began, this is despite the few bones that will most likely be thrown out and the small concessions made to make it appear that it wasn't all just one way. Even as I type its been announced that Rainsay's Party has won within the Capital City of Phnom Penh, which might seem like a significant small victory for the opposition until you realise that during national holidays the capital city pretty much empties of people for the vast majority of the cities dwellers to head back to their home towns within the many rural provinces outside of Phnom Penh, which is also where they're legally expected to place their election votes. 

A combined opposition total of 55 parliamentary seats constituting a number of opposition parties out of a total of 123 seat means that the opposition is seemingly in much better stead over the previous combined 29 seats that they held. But I very much doubt that this change in parliamentary seat numbers will translate to anything truly tangible in regard to how things are done within the same system, with the same people/administration that have the same loyalties and motives that are still running it from behind the scenes beyond the front of people sitting in the parliamentary seats amidst constant allegations of corruption from the top down. It's Cambodia, not the US and the UK, its really down to those people beyond the parliamentary seats within the actual system to truly make that change that they all keep saying they want. 

Things in Cambodia have certainly improved a lot given that the elections this time round passed relatively peacefully for the main part, which is certainly a far cry from the grenade attacks and intimidation at past elections that were said to have apparently been prompted by the fact that the opposition had gained a few seats in the early legs of the vote counts.