‘CLEAN FINGER’ RALLY | Local Cambodians join worldwide protests

Cambodian Australians from across our region joined the worldwide protests on July 28 in “Clean Finger” rallies to voice opposition to the HunSen government in Cambodia.

General elections were held in Cambodia the next day to elect members of the sixth National Assembly.

Sydney’s rally was held at Bonnyrigg along with simultaneous demonstrations in Melbourne and Adelaide.

The “Clean Finger” is the widely understood symbol in Cambodia of abstaining from voting.

Cambodia went to the polls next day returning what was considered a predictable win for Prime Minister Hun Sen who’s been in power for 33 years.

Local Cambodians said the election was a sham. “How could the elections be free and fair?” asked SreyKang, leader of a local women’s group. “The main opposition party is banned!”

Last year, Hun Sen ordered the dissolution of the leading opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party. Its leader, KemSokha, was arrested and remains in prison without trial. Other members of his party have fled into exile. At the Bonnyrigg rally protesters held up posters calling for Kem Sokha’s release.

Cambodians in Sydney urged their friends and relatives back home in Cambodia to boycott the election. “We hope people will stay home and not vote. It’s the only way they can protest the destruction of democracy in Cambodia,” Srey Kang said.

At the rallies held across Australia, protesters adopted the “Clean Finger” as a symbol of resistance. In Cambodia, voters have their fingers inked and a clean finger shows they have chosen not to vote.

Many protesters at the rally live-streamed it to Facebook, urging friends in Cambodia to stay home and not vote.

“Each time we demonstrate, Hun Sen’s supporters are here taking photos. People are afraid if they’re identified it may be dangerous for them to visit their families.”


Yeay Thuon, 84, the oldest protester at Bonnyrgg, came with her daughter Sarah. Australia has been her home for 35 years and she was determined to speak out, saddened, she said, at how her hopes to see a free and fair election in Cambodia had been dashed by the actions of the Hun Sen regime.

Over 300 people attended at Bonnyrigg, with posters in English and Khmer.

“It takes courage,” Khim An Chy said. “Each time we demonstrate, Hun Sen’s supporters are here taking photos of us. People are afraid if they’re identified it may be dangerous for them to visit their families.”