Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday denied an accusation by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy that he told the latter not to return to Cambodia following his flight to France.
Mr Kheng posted a message on his Facebook yesterday saying that he never prevented Mr Rainsy from returning to the country.
“Sam Rainsy said that I had banned him from coming back to the country. It is a slanderous statement to hide his cowardice to shun the law,” the post said. “Being a politician in the political stage, I am not stupid to ask Sam Rainsy not to come back to the country.”
“I want to clarify that Mr Rainsy committed lots of offences and the court convicted him. This prisoner decided to flee the country and did not return to the country by himself. And whether he will return is up to him. No one bans him,” Mr Kheng said.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia on Saturday, Mr Rainsy said that Mr Kheng relayed his message through then-US ambassador to Cambodia asking Mr Rainsy not to return to Cambodia in 2015.
Mr Rainsy has lived in exile since 2015 after being hit with a slew of court cases, including by Prime Minister Hun Sen who accused him of defamation.
Last week, Mr Kheng lashed out at Mr Rainsy for asking the European Union to sanction Cambodia, and for accusing Cambodian government of failing to comply with request made for democratic reforms by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on September 13.
Mr Kheng also denied an accusation that he could not work well with Mr Hun Sen after the 2013 national election.
“When Sam Rainsy said that I had difficulty working with Samdech Hun Sen, it is a lie and cheating,” Mr Kheng said. “Sam Rainsy wanted the national public opinion to misunderstand me and it is Mr Rainsy’s political coy.”
Mr Kheng said that he had a difficult time working with Mr Rainsy in September 2013 to work out a political deal when he protested against the election result.
“Rainsy was the difficult person to work with and he spoke untrue and irresponsible,” Mr Kheng said. “I have worked with Samdech Hun Sen in all circumstances to solve all national issues for more than 40 years. Successes of six mandates elections have clearly demonstrated that the CPP becomes stronger and stronger.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the CPP was always a target of political attacks by others, but remained robust and inseparable.
“Sam Rainsy still applies his old tactics to split the CPP. He will be disappointed and it is useless,” Mr Eysan said.