Cambodian opposition leader plans return home

Elias Hubbard
November 8, 2019

Cambodia has arrested at least 48 opposition activists this year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government before the planned return from self-exile of Sam Rainsy, founder of the dissolved CNRP, on Saturday.

His return could be thwarted by Thailand, whose prime minister said on Wednesday he would not be allowed entry en route to Cambodia.

"This may be the last time you see me alive or as a free man", he said.

Sam Rainsy, acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said in a formal letter to Prayut, that he and other party members plan to fly to Bangkok on Friday on a Thai Airways flight and to enter into Cambodia the following day via Aranyaprathet, adjacent to the Cambodian border town of Poipet.

As quoted by Reuters, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been exiled and living in France for four years, following accusations against him in a defamation case for which he paid US$1 million.

"I wish to request, therefore, the right to land at Bangkok global airport on November 8, and then to enter Cambodia at Poipet, near Aranyaprathet", Rainsy wrote on his letter to Thailand Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha dated October 31, 2019, as seen by ANTARA.

He denies wrongdoing and says the charges were politically motivated.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he could not allow interference into the internal affairs of Cambodia, a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Among them is party president Kem Sokha who is under house arrest in Phnom Penh, having been charged with treason in September 2017.

"According to our commitment to ASEAN, we will not allow an anti-government person to use Thailand for activism", Prayuth told reporters when asked about Rainsy.

He added: "I have ordered this, so he probably won't get in".

Thailand last week turned away Mu Sochua, the CNRP's vice president, when she flew into Bangkok's main global airport.

The opposition politicians had said they hoped to return accompanied by a mass of followers, including from the huge community of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand.

Sam Rainsy's party was touted as posing a threat to Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party in last year's general election, but it was dissolved ahead of the polls by the courts, which are viewed as doing the government's bidding.

Self-exiled former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy in Canberra, Australia, in February previous year.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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