Back from Summer Break

So I've been a leetle absent this past week on the blog-space. We've been gone over a week and just returned to Poipet a few days ago. I've managed to scrape the house back together, unpack, and download some photos of our rather-uneventful-but-enjoyable trip.

Last week, on our way to Kampong Chhnang, we nearly ran into Sam Rainsy. (Who's Sam? you ask - check out last week's blog post on Cambodian politics). All along the {already} narrow highway to Battambang {a city about halfway between Poipet and Kampong Chhnang} were lined up hundreds of motos and people dressed in CNRP shirts and hats, wavings flags.

When we arrived in Battambang, the streets were even more crowded, and we barely found a place to park by a cafe for lunch. We talked to a waiter who said Sam Rainsy was giving a speech just a few blocks away in the market. It was so tempting to wander over there and listen, but hunger prevailed, and we contented ourselves watching the crowds pass by under our balcony.

Dang electrical wires...

After spending a few days in Kampong Chhnang, a relatively quiet rural town, we headed down to Phnom Penh for the last few days of election campaigning. Ok, that's not really why we went, but we happened to be picking up a new SP intern at the same time. And the streets were even busier in Phnom Penh - full of both parties driving around in gangs of motorcycles, waving flags, chanting slogans, faces painted with the ballot numbers of their party. 

Thankfully, people couldn't campaign any longer after Friday, and Saturday and Sunday {the actual day of election} were pretty quiet. Most of Phnom Penh shut down on Sunday, as Khmers had to go to their home towns to vote in the election, and most businesses didn't have enough staff to stay open. We grabbed dinner in our hotel's restaurant, which was swarming with other expats trying to find a place to eat. We kept checking Twitter and news websites for election results, even swapping bits of intel with other diners sitting near us. I felt a keen interest in the outcome of the election, and a bit apprehensive of what might happen. We heard occasional police sirens and saw a news story of angry voters, turned away from polling stations, burning police trucks and protesting outside of town

Later we found out that over a million Cambodian voters had not been allowed to vote, because their names had been removed from voters' lists or someone else had voted under their name. Over a million people - out of a voting population of about 9 million registered voters - meant that about 13% of voters couldn't cast their ballots. The unofficial results were released later that night, showing that the ruling party that has been in charge for nearly 30 years won 68 parliament seats; the opposition party, 55 seats. But of course the question was - if those were the "official" government numbers, despite all the voter fraud, what were the real numbers?

Fortunately, the turmoil died down quickly on election night, and we spent a few more days back in Kampong Chhnang before heading back to Poipet. But the next few weeks are a bit uncertain. There are a lot of rumors going around about what the opposition party will do - protest results, possibly losing the seats they did win? Accept the number of seats they were given, knowing they will have to wait another 5 years to challenge the ruling party? 

Despite election uncertainty, we saw an accident along the road on our way home that confirms my belief that, in bus vs. anything, the bus always wins.

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