Exiled Cambodian Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy Seeks Foreign Help

Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is in the United States, meeting with political leaders and campaigning to get Western donor nations to help him return to parliament.

In an exclusive VOA interview, he says Cambodian authorities are trying to silence the political opposition.

The former finance minister fled his native country last Thursday, after he and two opposition party leaders were stripped of immunity from prosecution, following a vote in the National Assembly.

The vote means Sam Rainsy can be prosecuted for defamation by his political rival, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The United Nations special representative for human rights in Cambodia is urging the National Assembly to restore parliamentary immunity to the three opposition members.

Sam Rainsy says his quest for foreign support could be effective because Cambodia depends heavily on international assistance. He says the government needs international assistance for its very survival.

The following is the text of the interview:

VOA: Sir, welcome to VOA. I'm delighted you could be here today.

The U.N. Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia is calling on the National Assembly to restore your parliamentary immunity and the parliamentary immunity of two of your colleagues. Are you encouraged by this?

Mr. Rainsy: Yes, very much. I'm very much encouraged by the reaction from the U.N. Representative but also from U.S. senators and from the State Department. I'm encouraged to see that people care about what is happening in Cambodia.

VOA: Now, statements from organizations outside the country, the United Nations, the United States, other places, what practical impact does that have on politics within Cambodia? What is likely to happen?

Mr. Rainsy: It will have an impact, because Cambodia depends heavily on international assistance. And the Cambodian Government needs international assistance for its very survival.

VOA: What are you going to do? What's your next step as you try to rejoin Cambodia's political life?

Mr. Rainsy: I will be asking for solidarity from members of parliaments around the world. Because members of parliament have the right and the duty to speak out and to speak up to defend the interests of their constituents. And in the present circumstances, the authorities in Cambodia is just trying to silence members of parliament from the opposition party.

VOA: Have you met with, or do you expect to meet with, members of the U.S. Congress or the U.S. Senate here today or this week?

Mr. Rainsy: Yes, I have been meeting with senators and members of the House. For the next few days, I will have the honor to meet other members of the Congress.

VOA: And earlier you said you were going to take your campaign, your struggle, your however you want to characterize it, from here to where?

Mr. Rainsy: From Washington, D.C. to Europe, to Brussels, to Berlin, to London, and, later on, maybe to Tokyo and to Canberra.

VOA: Are we going to see a functional democratic Cambodia in our lifetime?

Mr. Rainsy: Yes. We have to fight for it.

VOA: What brings you here to VOA today? Why did you come here?

Mr. Rainsy: I have the honor to speak to Cambodian listeners in Cambodia, because VOA is the most popular radio station in Cambodia. People rely [on it] for objective and balanced information from VOA.

VOA: Hun Sen's action, what do you think that says about his democratic credentials? What does that do to his reputation?

Mr. Rainsy: I think Cambodia has suffered a setback. Democracy is now in a difficult situation.

VOA: What does this problem, this dispute, what does it say to the donors, the foreign donors, who are helping Cambodia?

Mr. Rainsy: Donors are entitled to see that their assistance is effectively used. But unfortunately this is not the case in Cambodia. In order for international assistance to be effectively used, we need democracy. We need transparency. We need the rule of law. We need accountability. And we need checks and balances, which imply a vibrant opposition. If the Cambodian Government eliminates the opposition, there will be no democracy, no governance, and therefore donors will waste the money that they give to Cambodia.

VOA: Your wife is also a member of parliament, is that correct?

Mr. Rainsy: Yes, she is.

VOA: She still has her immunity. Is she likely to step forward and fill the place that you once filled in parliament, the leadership role?

Mr. Rainsy: The 24 members of parliament from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have been working closely together and we will cont to do so.

VOA: Thank you very much.

Mr. Rainsy: Thank you.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs