Wednesday, 20 November, 2019

Senior Cambodian opposition figure Kem Sokha out of house arrest

Armed police block all roads leading to Poipet border checkpoint in Cambodia as leaders and activists of Cambodia National Resc Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy lands in Malaysia, says report
Patty Aguilar | 10 November, 2019, 18:25

"We're on the right track", Mr Rainsy said in a message to supporters as he arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

A co-founder of the court-disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Rainsy had vowed to re-enter Cambodia on Saturday - nearly four years after fleeing overseas to evade arrest in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

The CNRP, which was founded in 2012 following a merger between the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, achieved a historic result in the 2013 national election, narrowly losing out to the ruling Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

At least 52 people had been arrested according to credible sources, the United Nations statement said, and at least 89 people have been charged with "plotting against the State".

"More importantly, such dropping of the charge would open the way for a reinstatement of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved in 2017 precisely on the base of this unsubstantiated "treason" charge".

"The return to the country of the convict Sam Rainsy and his faction as Cambodian citizens is unimpeded", Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said on Facebook.

Cambodia's government also appears to have reversed its hard line on Sam Rainsy entering the country.

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. "But it is only a small step toward the right direction", Rainsy told Reuters in Malaysia.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) deputy president Mu Sochua told RFA's Khmer Service that CNRP acting president Sam Rainsy had boarded a flight from Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport to an undisclosed location in Asia, and that the party's plans for him and other senior leaders to enter Cambodia on Saturday, despite threats of arrest, "have not changed".

"I will go back home, of course".

"Kem Sokha's release from house detention is a last minute attempt to deflect European anger", said Phil Robertson of US -based Human Rights Watch.

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Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon after announcing earlier that he was boarding a plane in Paris, his home in exile, without disclosing his destination. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, chanting the mantra of Asean non-interference, made clear the opposition figure would not be allowed into Thailand.

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.

Mu Sochua's comments came as Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a directive informing all of its diplomatic and consular missions that her Cambodian passport, as well as those of 11 other CNRP officials, had been declared null and void.

Yusmadi said that under the Malaysian rule of law, Rainsy had not committed any offence as he was on transit while en route to Cambodia. During the day, hundreds of security personnel blocked the Poipet global border crossing at the Thai border, and only selectively let people in.

Cambodian immigration officials also met with Thai soldiers on Saturday. "We welcome them", he said, before adding, "We have to arrest them on the spot".

Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia four years ago following a conviction for criminal defamation.

Rainsy welcomed Ken Sokha's release from house arrest, but said all charges must be dropped and the party reinstated. "This must be Hun Sen, Cambodian dictator", who put pressure on neighboring countries.

"Nothing can be refuted concerning Rainsy's return, which he repeated numerous times, and that he had incited people to support him - both locally and internationally", he said.

Cambodia freed opposition leader Kem Sokha from house arrest on Sunday, more than two years after he was arrested and charged with treason, but the charges remain and he is banned from politics and from leaving the country.

Dozens of activists have been rounded up in recent weeks in Cambodia, while the authoritarian leader has called on neighbouring countries to help thwart the opposition's attempts to return for what he has described as an attempted coup.

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