Cambodian Widow Walks 23 Days From Village to Attend Opposition Rally

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Sao Peou speaks to RFA at Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, Oct 24, 2013.
Sao Peou speaks to RFA at Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, Oct 24, 2013.
Photo: RFA

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.    

Domestic conditions

Sao Peou walked nearly 200 kilometers (about 120 miles) from Kampong Cham province's Kampong Siem district to Phnom Penh.
Sao Peou walked nearly 200 kilometers (about 120 miles) from Kampong Cham province's Kampong Siem district to Phnom Penh. Photo: RFA

Sao Peou, who is from Kampong Cham province's Kampong Siem district, cited her own domestic conditions to illustrate the point, saying she and her children have been toiling as garbage scavengers since her husband was killed in a 1997 coup in which Hun Sen seized power.

“End to corruption, that is what I want," she said. "I have a difficult life these days because of CPP's rule," she said, admitting that she was an ardent CPP supporter at one time.

"Cambodians are still leaving the country to seek jobs in Thailand, Malaysia, and other countries. They have been treated badly there."

While Sau Peou joined the demonstrations that ended Friday, her children were busy collecting empty plastic bottles left behind by the huge crowd.

They want to sell them to make some moneypossibly enough for the trio to take a bus ride home.

"If I don’t have enough money from selling the bottles, we'll try to hitchhike home,” said the tenacious Sao Peou.

Reported by Vann Vicha for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun and Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Comments (9)

Anonymous Reader

from Paris

Bravo Madame, chapeau bas

Oct 28, 2013 10:13 PM


When i left cambodia at 12, I heard the stories about elites stealing army pays and general taking American aid money. Now I hear politicans and generals doing the same things 40 years later. It is time to stop this Cambodian Greek tragedy. Listening to this woman story, for the first time, I have hope that the Cambodian people will break this cruel cycle of corruption. Stop being submissive and question authority !

Oct 28, 2013 09:54 PM

Anonymous Reader

I'm proud of her but I'm confuse. her husband death back in 1997 but her 3 children aged 6, 10, and 13 years old. that don't make sense. are those kids from her death husband or from her new husband?

Oct 28, 2013 08:24 PM


An incredibly courageous, motivated woman!

WHEN is the blind monkey Hun Sen going to realize that there is still and more 50% of the Cambodians living under miserable hardship. Her kids are not getting an education but scavenging for food like animals. Is this the legacy of Hun Sen?
The corrupt few elite gets richer and fatter while the poor scrapes bottom and eats rubbish.


[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Oct 28, 2013 11:42 AM

Anonymous Reader

This shows how much people are hungry for justice . This lady and the rest of the world love democracy and justice...communist and dictator regime must remember !

Oct 28, 2013 10:14 AM

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