Published: Sun, November 10, 2019

Cambodian opposition figurehead Rainsy arrives in Malaysia

Cambodian opposition figurehead Rainsy arrives in Malaysia

This week, Sam Rainsy said he wanted to return to his country on November 9, Cambodia's Independence Day, along with other opposition figures to "restore democracy" by triggering a popular movement to force Hun Sen, who has ruled for more than three decades, from office.

CAMBODIAN opposition figure Sam Rainsy has landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after he was barred from boarding a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok in Paris, Reuters reports.

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

Sar Kheng was referring to Rainsy's position that his return was meant to topple the government through "people power" and arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia's government said there was no ban on Rainsy returning, but it described him as "convict Sam Rainsy" and said it would take action against anyone posing a threat to state security - an accusation it has already laid against him.

In a post on Facebook following his release, Kem Sokha expressed disappointment with the investigating judge's rejection of a request from his lawyers to drop the charges against him.

Kem Sohka is nonetheless barred from taking part in political exercise, however his newfound freedom raises his profile instead chief to Sam Rainsy.

Sar Kheng, the interior minister and deputy prime minister, announced the shift in the government's stand on his Facebook page on Saturday. Cambodia's long holiday weekend runs through Tuesday.

He has been in self-imposed exile for the last four years. He declared that his visit was a private one and that he was grateful to the Malaysia authorities.

"In contrast to repressive Thailand's clampdown on the Cambodian exiles, Malaysia has shown there is another, more rights-respecting way to proceed". Malaysia and Cambodia are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which maintains a policy of noninterference in each other's affairs.

It was reported that two other Cambodian opposition leaders also experienced similar predicaments upon arrival at KLIA, but were subsequently released. He said the opposition was "on the right track" and would "keep up the hope we will win".

"We must understand that as the leader of the democratic voice in the region, Malaysia must lead by example in advocating that everyone's rights be respected".

In Malaysia, Sam Rainsy was meeting officials to discuss strategy on Sunday. It is fitting that this Saturday, pro-democracy advocates and political dissidents will make their fearless return to Cambodia with the hopes of stemming the tide of authoritarianism, and restoring democratic norms. "We look up to Malaysia as our model to strengthen democracy in a peaceful way".

The celebration took place under tight security in the capital, Phnom Penh, with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen looking on.

"This is just another cynical move by Hun Sen to try and hoodwink the global community", he said.

"We still continue to call for the drop of all charges and reinstatement of his political rights", Monovithya also wrote on Twitter. "The Hun Sen government must know that the world is watching". With the elimination of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Hun Sen's party swept the 2018 polls.

Rainsy flew into Malaysia on Saturday.

"Of course I want to go back to my home country", he said. It is my right.

But he and his colleagues face an uphill battle.

"I have heard that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he would not interfere in the internal affairs of another country and would not allow any group to use Malaysian territory to carry out activities against other countries", Kuong said.

But Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, vowed to bar him and other figures from his party, which was outlawed ahead of much-criticised elections previous year.

"He can travel anywhere but can't leave Cambodia", Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin told Reuters.

Mr Rainsy fled to Paris in 2015 after a conviction for criminal defamation and faces a five-year sentence in a separate case. He claimed the airline had received orders from the Thai government not to allow him onto the plane, while the company claims he did not hold a valid ticket.

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