The editors at Washington-based Foreign Policy website hit the nail on the head when they headlined Michael Sainsbury’s piece on the Cambodian election Rumble in the Jungle. Two heroes, both suspended for years and back in their own particular ring.
In 1967 Muhammad Ali was suspended from boxing for 3 ½ years for refusing to obey the draft. Fast forward to 2009 Sam Rainsy, a key opposition figure in Cambodia, went into exile rather than face politically motivated charges of criminal libel.
Ali returned to the ring, experiencing as many defeats as victories in his career, culminating in 1974, in Kinshasa, capital of the Republic of Congo (the former Zaire) in an epic fight, to this day considered one of the most important sporting events of the 20th Century, against the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, George Foreman. Beamed around the world and watched by a live audience including Mobutu Sese Seko, the megalomaniac tyrant of Zaire who styled himself Lion Warrior and Saviour of the Nation.
The champions slugged it out. Foreman, 24 , was the favourite, Ali, 32, showed stamina and cunning could win knocking Foreman to his knees in the 8th round. Foreman got up but not before he was counted out.
It’s Sunday 28th July, 2013 the whole world knows Cambodia’s plight, a land desperately in need of change. Hun Sen, Cambodia’s leader for close to 30 years, certainly has form. If Rainsy’s Cambodian National Rescue Party pull off a near-impossible election victory will Hun Sen and his cronies in the Cambodian People’s Party accept the count with good grace?
Here’s Michael’s story
Armed with a surprise royal pardon, Cambodia’s veteran opposition leader Sam Rainsy stepped into the steamy Phnom Penh air on July 19 to a delirious welcome from an estimated 100,000 people.
After four years of exile in France, to escape from what most regard as trumped-up charges of falsifying documents and disinformation that saw him sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison in 2010, Rainsy returned a hero — but with just nine days of campaigning left before his party faced the polls.
Hope was in the air for the infectiously excitable young crowd — about two-thirds of Cambodia’s population is under 30. They chanted the question in unison: “Change? No change?” and answered with the resounding: “Change, change, change!” The country’s urban youth was, for the first time, making a very public statement of its preferences, read more…