A poor Cambodian widow and her three children walked 23 days from her rural village on the central lowlands of the Mekong River to the capital Phnom Penh to join a mammoth opposition rally this week aimed at questioning the legitimacy of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government following disputed elections.
Unable to pay for a bus ride that takes only several hours from their home province of Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh, the 47-year-old Sao Peou said she resorted to walking nearly 200 kilometers (about 120 miles) with her children aged six, 10, and 13 years to the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) protest site at Freedom Park.
"We desperately wanted to be here" to join the tens of thousands of protesters "in the fight for justice," she told RFA's Khmer Service as the CNRP held three days of protests from Wednesday to lobby foreign governments to back the party's demands for an independent probe into July 28 polls it says were tainted by widespread fraud.
“I came here not for my personal benefit, I am here for the sake of the younger generation ... who face a bleak future,” said Sao Peou, wearing blue badges on her green blouse calling for "change."
Hun Sen has ignored the CNRP's demands, convening parliament despite an opposition boycott and unilaterally approving his 28th year in power.
For Sao Peou and the thousands of others who came from the provinces to camp out at Freedom Park for three nights, their journey also symbolized a desire to highlight growing problems in Cambodia's rural areas—unending poverty, rising unemployment, and rampant corruption, among them, she said.
The problems have forced Cambodians to emigrate to neighboring countries to seek jobs, said the bespectacled woman, as her children rested at the park.