Exiled political analyst Kim Sok yesterday vowed to return to Cambodia and join those fighting for democracy after he and his daughter were granted political asylum in Finland.
Mr Sok arrived in Finland on Friday, following weeks of hiding in Thailand under threat of arrest in Cambodia over his criticisms against the government.
Mr Sok said yesterday that he and his daughter had no choice but to leave the Kingdom to hide in Thailand for more than a month because of personal safety concerns.
“I am happy that I and my daughter arrived in Finland, a country where we believe we are safe from arrest by the Cambodian government… in the meantime, I miss our country,” he said.
Mr Sok said he had no plans yet on what to do in Finland, and needs to make a living and find a way to return to Cambodia and serve the country.
“I’m not sure how I can go back by now. But I wish I could go back because my heart and my mind are in Cambodia. I promised myself that I will join those who are democrats to bring changes in Cambodia,” Mr Sok said.
He expressed his gratitude to UN and International Organisation for Migration officials in Thailand who helped press his case for asylum in Finland.
In mid-September, Mr Sok fled to Thailand after Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested he could be arrested for failing to pay compensation owed from a defamation conviction.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday Mr Sok is not an independent analyst but a political activist who would do anything to get asylum abroad without caring about the truth.
“He achieved his goal in seeking political asylum and living in another country, I knew this is what he was after from the beginning,” he said. “It’s his strategy and he will continue to destroy the country’s reputation on the international stage.”
Former opposition party lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said he believes that circumstances forced Mr Sok to seek asylum, noting that it’s the only way he could ensure his freedom.
“I am happy for him. This is the best thing for Mr Sok,” he said. “Most political prisoners fled because they do not trust the court.”
Mr Sok completed a defamation sentence in late August and walked free from prison, almost immediately drawing the ire of Mr Hun Sen after he criticised the Prime Minister’s initiative to create a council of all political parties that contested the national election to gather input and move the country forward together.