News / Asia

    Exiled Opposition Leader Pledges to Return to Cambodia

    Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, Sept. 10, 2012 file photo.
    Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, Sept. 10, 2012 file photo.
    Robert Carmichael
    Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, says he will return to the country before the hotly-contested general election, scheduled for July 28.  With an 11-year jail term hanging over his head, it is far from clear what will happen to Rainsy if and when he does come back.

    Sam Rainsy’s announcement during the weekend that he will return to Cambodia will doubtless thrill supporters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the coalition of key opposition parties that combined to contest the election.

    It is also a problem for the long-serving, authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, as it comes at a time when Cambodia’s political situation is coming under greater scrutiny.  On Tuesday, the United States will hold a Congressional hearing on Cambodia’s constrained political landscape.

    The exiled Sam Rainsy has said on previous occasions that he would return, but then did not.  Political analyst Chea Vannath believed this time was different.

    “It seems like this time it is more than a bluff - he used to say that he would come back, but he never did.  But this time it is different circumstances so the likelihood is that he might really come back,” she said.

    Among the dynamics she identified were the increasing numbers of young voters who felt an affinity for the opposition, and optimism the CNRP would do well in the ballot.  International pressure helped too. 

    Rainsy left Cambodia in 2009 before two court cases, both of which related to the country’s contentious, ill-defined border with Vietnam.

    The courts jailed Rainsy for two years for uprooting a temporary border marker, and a further nine years for disinformation after he showed off a map whose borders, the government said, were wrong. 

    The jail sentence was widely seen as a clumsy attempt to use the courts to hobble Hun Sen’s most trenchant and effective political opponent.

    Rainsy was also stripped of his parliamentary seat and has been banned from running in the election.

    Rainsy said this weekend that his return would test the government’s claim the election would be free and fair.

    The government maintains Rainsy is welcome to come back.  But government spokesman Phay Siphan said Monday he expected the courts would carry out their responsibility - in short, that Rainsy would be arrested and be compelled to serve time in prison.

    But arresting the leader of the opposition would tarnish Cambodia’s international image and embarrass some of the donors who provide large sums each year.

    Chea Vannath said jailing Rainsy would also risk turning him into a martyr.  She believed a face-saving deal can be struck, one that Cambodia's king, who is a constitutional monarch, could help to bring about.

    She pointed out the king’s late father mediated solutions to political problems when he was on the throne in the 1990s.

    “It [would] be possible if the compromise that: from the airport, go to jail.  And after that, then compromise somewhere,” said Vannath.

    That, she said, would prove a mutually beneficial solution - even if it involved Rainsy spending only a few hours in prison.  Some sort of penalty needs to be paid, after which a royal pardon could in theory be employed.

    “That is a possibility.  And also I give more importance to the role of the king rather than the international community, because the prime minister is quite irritated if somebody said that he does something because of the international pressure - he feels that Cambodia is a sovereign country, not under pressure of any foreign country. So the king is much, much more appropriate than the international community,” said Vannath.

    The opposition is optimistic Rainsy will return before voting day and that his presence will boost their chances. But if he changeed his mind, Chea Vannath said, many of his supporters would be disillusioned and 2013 could mark the end of a lengthy political career.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Gary Fultheim from: Long Beach ,Calif
    July 08, 2013 8:20 PM
    Hope Sam Rainsy goes to Prison and stays for a long time.
    He is a crimminal and was convicted. how can the International community expect cambodia to have rule of law when a politician like SR pulls up Federal Border Posts? He has been responsible for lost trade, lost aid, and delays for economic progress. Some of his Long Beach supporters are involved with criminals also.Some Congress members that help him have had support for the Khmer Rouge and or convicted felons...cambodia and the world is better off with Sam Rainsy locked you for a long time.
    In Response

    by: seng from: Orange, Ca
    July 09, 2013 12:05 PM
    You would rather have Hun Sen for the 40 years? If you called out someone as criminal, at least learn how to spell it correctly. Please enlighten us with Sam Rainsy's criminal activities.
    In Response

    by: Chhuon Ly from: Tacoma Wa
    July 09, 2013 5:51 AM
    As a Cambodian American, I'm truly offended by your ignorant statements about Sam Rainsy, his supporters and the political and economic climate in Cambodia.

    You as a civilized human being need to do more research to truly understand what is going on in Cambodia.

    In Response

    by: Camboy
    July 09, 2013 1:59 AM
    Cambodia would be better off with Hun Sen.
    In Response

    by: GoodSamaritan from: Los Angeles, CA
    July 09, 2013 12:36 AM
    Wake up kid. You are being brainwashed by Communists. Get an education. Take a class in world history or something. Cambodian court is a Kangaroo court. Removing a border post is not a crime. It is rather an act of vandalism. In United States and other democratic worlds, the penalty is a few hundreds fine or a few hours in jail, but not two years. Criticizing the government is not a crime either. Cambodians should thank him for being patriotic.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora