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Exiled Cambodian Opposition Leader Seeks Foreign Help

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Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is campaigning in the United States to get help from western governments to help him return to parliament.  He fled his native country in fear of what he says is political persecution.

Cambodia's former finance minister and opposition leader, Sam Rainsy says Cambodian authorities are trying to silence the political opposition.
 
He is asking parliamentarians from around the world for support.

"Members of parliament have the right and the duty to speak out and speak up to defend the interest of their constituents," said Mr. Rainsy.

The United States has criticized what State Department officials say is a growing climate of intimidation of opposition voices in Cambodia.

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

Sam Rainsy says he has met with one U.S. Senator and expects to meet with other members of the U.S. Congress and European parliamentarians.

Sam Rainsy and two opposition party leaders were stripped of immunity from prosecution last Thursday, following a vote in the National Assembly.  One member of the opposition was jailed. 

The vote means Sam Rainsy can be prosecuted for defamation by his political rival, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the Cambodian government for the last 20 years.

Members of the Sam Rainsy Party say they will boycott some parliament sessions as a protest against the immunity vote.

Sam Rainsy says his quest for foreign support could be effective if it persuades donor nations to reconsider their financial support of Cambodia's government.

"It will have an impact because Cambodia depends heavily on international assistance, and the Cambodian government needs international assistance for its very survival," he added.

The Cambodian opposition leader says he expects to see a democratic Cambodia in his lifetime, but cautions "it will take work."

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