This last Sunday marked an important occasion in Cambodia, as they held their fifth general election since 1993. It was exciting to be in the country at this time, as political demonstrations and parades were occurring all around me. In fact, I even got to briefly participate in a political parade!
Cambodia’s ruling party (Camodian People’s Party, or CPP) won the election, with long standing Prime Minister Hun Sen retaining his seat. Hun Sen has been leading the country in one form of the other for 38 years straight. He was also a former Khmer Rouge Commander. For those of you who don’t know, the Khmer Rouge were responsible for millions of deaths in Cambodia between 1975-1979. In addition to Hun Sen retaining his position as Prime Minister, the CPP won 68 seats in parliament to the opponents 55. There are widespread calls of corruption in the election proceedings.
Regardless of all of the drama surrounding the election, seeing the voting process work in another country is FASCINATING. Instead of merely going to the temples all day at Angkor, I asked my tuk tuk driver to take me around the city so I could see all of the excitement. People were all out on the streets supporting their political party with hats and shirts. I wore my CPP hat that I had received from the political parade and I got many comments. Everyone wanted to know my thoughts on the election.
Finally, I convinced my tuk tuk driver to take me to a voting center. He relented at first, but finally gave in. The voting center in Siem Reap took place at a high shool. I was surprised with how similar it looked to voting centers in the United States. The big difference was the lack of cars in the parking lot-everyone drove their motorbikes!
Witnessing the vote firsthand in Cambodia was a very atypical traveling experience, but it gave me a lot of insight into this country’s present and their troubled past. It was definitely an interesting event to see!