Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said he is allowing exiled government critic Lu Lay Sreng to return to the Kingdom, despite legal troubles.
On Friday, Mr Lay Sreng posted a Facebook video asking Mr Hun Sen to have him pardoned and allow him to return home before Khmer New Year.
“Please Samdech, help me return home as what I said was wrong,” Mr Lay Sreng said in the video. “I worked with Samdech for three mandates.”
Speaking during a graduation ceremony yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said Mr Lay Sreng is welcome to return home without fear of arrest.
“No one should arrest Lu Lay Sreng. Please tell the authorities and police to not arrest him,” he said. “But other people [exiled critics] cannot.”
During the wake of the dissolution of the CNRP in November 2017, Mr Lay Sreng alleged that Mr Hun Sen offered Funcinpec party officials $20,000 each to fill former CNRP seats in the National Assembly.
After hearing that legal complaints were being filed by Mr Hun Sen and Funcinpec party members, the 85-year-old government critic fled the country.
In January last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mr Lay Sreng in absentia of defamation and ordered him to pay $125,000 to Mr Hun Sen and an additional $2,000 fine to be put in the state’s coffers.
Additionally, Funcinpec officials filed a complaint against him for accusing Prince Norodom Ranariddh of taking bribes from provincial governors.
Mr Lay Sreng is not the only exiled critic allowed to return home.
In 2015, Mr Hun Sen allowed Civilisation Khmer Foundation president Moeung Sonn to return to the Kingdom after he fled in 2009, as he was convicted for criticising the use of lights in the rennovation of Angkor Wat.
Mr Sonn yesterday said he met Mr Lay Sreng in Thailand for a birthday celebration and the two spoke about Mr Lay Sreng’s return.
“I told him that he will be surprised like how I was when Prime Minister Hun Sen allowed me to return,” Mr Sonn said. “It is positive because it is useless for the government to keep [Mr Lay Sreng] abroad.”
“In allowing his return, the government just neutralised a critic because Mr Lay Sreng said he will stop getting involved in politics,” he added.