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

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs