Welcome Home Mr. President!
Yesterday, at 08:55am, the Thai Airways flight touched down at the Phnom Penh international Airport. On board, it carried Mr. Sam Rainsy, Mr. Kem Sokha and other twelve CNRP high ranking party officials from Bangkok. Mr. Sam Rainsy and his wife were on the fly from Paris via Bangkok to Phnom Penh. Mr. Kem Sokha and other leaders were travelling to Bangkok to greet their President, the night before.
I arrived at the airport at 07:20 am; because I know that there will be huge crowd to greet Sam Rainsy. The party spokesperson, Yim Sovann, estimated that there will be around 40,000 supporters expected. He was completely wrong. There is no official figure, but the estimation started with 100,000 to even one million people, including lots of local and international journalists. I am proud to be one of them. To me, it is still amazing to witness the huge popular support of President Sam Rainsy, though he was absent from Cambodia, almost four years. He was granted pardon by the King at the request of PM Hun Sen on 12 July 2013. It is also amazing that few days ago, he was warned that he will be greeted by handy-cuffs and put into prison if he would dare to come back. Yesterday, he was granted as VIP passenger. Policemen, custom officials, airport ground staffs and even cleaners at the airport were lining up to greet and cheer him.
My impression of the day:
- More people came to greet him, more than anybody had expected. I think it is the largest crowd in the recent history of Cambodia. The larger crowd was the one happened in October last year when people came to pay their last respect to late King’s Body upon arrival from Beijing.
- Though this breaking news was a coverage internationally; but nothing to see in local TVs, nothing to hear in local radios and nothing to read in local newspapers, except the English one like Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily.
- All the people had happy faces and smiling along the day. They cheered the two leaders from the bottom of their heart. I observed it with great pride for my fellow countrymen. They are so brave and wonderful.
- People, including my two sons, came on their own costs. Some came from the very far provinces by hiring local taxis, trucks together and have their food with them.
- I am very pleased with the positive political development in this country. Though his name was deleted from voter list and he could neither vote nor stand as candidate, his presence boost the momentum for his CNRP. Some would even go further: if the elections organized in a free and fair manner, the chance to win is realistic.
- The word “Change” has been heard along the way, where people go. People from all walks of life were happy to be on the streets. We are sorry that some passengers have missed their plane since the roads from city center to airport were totally blocked by hundreds of thousands of party supporters.
- I have made many photos of the return. I stayed and worked with my laptop at the airport till 12 pm, because there is no way out. The convoy of Sam Rainsy needed more than five hours to travel from airport to Democracy Park (official name is Freedom Park, but people start to use democracy park instead), the distance of twelve Kilometers. Normally, it would take about twenty minutes.
Together with Kem Sokha, he will be busy touring 15 provinces in eight days. We wish him/them all great success in their efforts to build a freer and more democratic Cambodia. Very pleased also to see young and active citizens of the Kingdom of Wonder, who will be the future of Cambodia, participating en masse.