Prime Minister Hun Sen secured another term in Cambodia after winning the election last weekend.
His Cambodia People’s Party faced an opposition led by Sam Rainsy.
Rainsy was recently back home from exile in France after a royal pardon in July this year.
More than 400 thousands people greeted Sam Rainsy at the Phonm Penh international airport days before the election started.
One of them is 42-year-old Sam So Pheap who lives 30 kilometres away from the capital.
“I’m so happy to see him today and I really support his return. I think he’s no longer guilty after today. He has to have the right to vote in the election.”
Sam Rainsy has come back to Cambodia for the general election.
Thousands of people sing the opposition’s anthem while waiting for Sam Rainsy at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.
For 65-year-old KongTouch, the large crowd is proof of how much support there is for the opposition.
“These large crowds all around... we can see the leader of Cambodia’s opposition, the national rescue party, is very popular despite the fact that he was found guilty by law. I think it’s a political case. I support his pardon by the King.”
The crowd is calling Sam Rainsy a ‘national hero’, as they shout ‘victory!’
“I would like to sincerely thank my followers. I am so happy to see our people come to greet me. I would like to thank our King who gave me a pardon and allowed me to return to our home country.”
Cambodians will vote in the election on 28 July, which Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to win.
Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest-serving PMs and has been in power for nearly 30 years.
And Sam Rainsy believes it’s time for a change.
“We must have absolute change from corruption to purity, change from injustice to justice and change from poverty to a developed and civilized country.”
52-year-old housewife Pov Sokhai promises to vote for the opposition.
“I am very glad to see him here at election time. I want to see him take up the role of government leader, and right now he’s come to rescue us. I must vote to support him and his party.”
Sam Rainsy is unable to run in the polls himself.
His name has already been removed from the electoral register... but his presence is expected to stir up voters.
Many young university students were involved in the election campaign for the opposition party.
They held party flags and placards highlighting the party’s policy for the youth... demanding a change in government.
Chan Soveit is an observer from the Adhoc human rights association.
“I think there was a large group of supporters and most of them are young people. With this political landscape, the Cambodia National Rescue Party will be the only rival to the ruling party. This election means a lot for both sides.”
In an interview with the Voice of Democracy, Sam Rainsy is confident that his party can win.
“You’ve seen the large number of supporters who greeted me on the streets... there may be one million of them. I expect my party to win the election and my presence demonstrates my support to Cambodia and our party. I’m here to fight for freedom and democracy for our Cambodian people.”