The elderly Vietnamese woman resided in a tiny room off an alley in Phnom Penh, using boxes of the soda pop she sold for a living as furniture. And she was worried. It was the summer of 2013, and controversy was raging over the Cambodian elections, which long-time prime minister Hun Sen claimed to have won, and which the opposing Cambodian National Rescue party claimed had been stolen from them. Her concerns were more simple: if the opposition party prevailed, would she find herself persecuted?
“For the time being, I feel Cambodian people hate Vietnamese people,” she said, in a quiet voice. “Vietnamese people just come to Cambodia to look for jobs. They don’t hate anyone.”
Controversy has been brewing in Phnom Penh ever since July, when the Cambodian People’s Party, led by long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen, claims to have won the national election. The newly formed Cambodian National Rescue party, led by recently-returned from exile politician Sam Rainsy and Human Rights Party founder Kem Sokha, claims that election irregularities were rampant, and has been leading mass protests ever since, calling for change to a more democratic system — away from the unabashed corruption, vote-snatching, and rampant land-grabbing that has marred Hun Sen’s so-called democracy.