Cambodia official says Sam Rainsy free to return

10 Novembre, 2019, 13:45 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen front right talks in front of U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy second from left during the country's 66th Independence Day from France at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh Cambodia Saturday

Cambodia's opposition leader has given up his plan to return to his country as it celebrated National Independence Day on Saturday.

Sam Rainsy greets supporters after arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia on Saturday.

"Actually, all the (Cambodian opposition party leaders) who arrived in Malaysia were not detained but they underwent certain processes used by our authorities at the airport, that is the normal SOP (standard operating procedure)".

He faces arrest and detention in Cambodia.

When asked whether Thursday's events, which included Sam Rainsy being prevented from boarding a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok as a result of what the CNRP chief said was Hun Sen's interference, and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha announcing that he could not enter Cambodia from Thailand, Mu Sochua acknowledged that the CNRP might repatriate via a different country.

Sam Rainsy has several convictions with prison sentences along with charges on several offense pending. Cambodia's long holiday weekend runs through Tuesday. He declared that his visit was a private one and that he was grateful to the Malaysia authorities.

"In the letter, they requested that if the people on the list come to Malaysia, they should be sent back to Cambodia". In preparation for any unrest, Cambodia's military has mobilized on its borders and near airports.

Teddy Baguilat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Parliamentarians for Human Rights group said the easing of restrictions on Kem Sokha should also be seen as an attempt to ward off global sanctions.

"Keep up the hope. Democracy will prevail", Sam Rainsy said.

"Democracy will prevail. Democracy has prevailed in Malaysia. We look up to Malaysia as our model to strengthen democracy in a peaceful way".

Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, upon landing in Malaysia, says he's determined to return to his homeland despite strong attempts by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's government to thwart him.

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Kem Sokha, 66, was arrested in 2017 and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned in the run-up to a general election a year ago that Hun Sen's ruling party then swept but which was condemned as a farce by Western countries.

The action was seen as a political ploy to ensure victory by Hun Sen's party in the 2018 general election by eliminating the only credible opposition group.

Hun Sen has made clear that he would have Sam Rainsy arrested upon entering the country. "This must be Hun Sen, Cambodian dictator", who put pressure on neighboring countries.

He refused to disclose his plans, but said "I will go back home, it is my right, it is my duty". It is my right.

But despite the difficulties Rainsy has faced in returning, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia would allow Rainsy and his supporters to enter the country.

The easing of restrictions on Mr Sokha comes just a day after Sam Rainsy, a co-founder of their now-banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), flew into Malaysia from self-imposed exile in Paris, aiming to return to Cambodia. It also informed Cambodia's neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations of its position, leading at least one, Malaysia, this past week to temporarily detain the deputy leader of the opposition party, Mu Sochua, and two junior party members.

Shortly after his announcement, tensions escalated in the country, with many opposition supporters either arrested or seemingly pressured to "confess" to crimes or to openly denounce the CNRP.

Police armed with assault rifles lined up at the Poipet border crossing with Thailand, where Sam Rainsy had said earlier that he planned to cross. Traffic to the checkpoint as well as across the border was limited, with Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand reportedly barred from entry.

"This is just another cynical move by Hun Sen to try and hoodwink the worldwide community into thinking he is lifting his grip on the political opposition and should be seen for what it is", he said in a statement.

Sam Rainsy has been Hun Sen's most prominent foe for decades. Other legal cases have since been lodged against him by the government.

On Friday, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, expressed "grave concerns" about a heightened political crackdown in the country, and called on Hun Sen's government to respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly.

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