The Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) held a roundtable discussion at its Phnom Penh HQ on Friday (Feb.1) about the fate of the court-dissolved CNRP, and if opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia in 2019 is an “impossible” scenario.
Mr Rainsy is in exile since 2015 after being hit with a slew of court cases, and announced that he would return to Cambodia in 2019. Senior CNRP officials say that this could happen before Khmer New Year (mid-April).
Speakers at “The political situation of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party” titled roundtable deemed that Mr Rainsy wouldn’t dare return.
RAC president Dr Sok Touch doesn’t see Mr Rainsy coming back to Cambodia, citing the many time he promised to do so but didn’t. “I assume that he won’t return,” Dr Touch told the 100 attendees. “If he wanted to return, he should have done so for the 2018 National Election, because then it would have been welcomed.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan believes that 69 year-old Sam Rainsy is not very willing to return out of fear of punishment for the crimes he is convicted of. “Sam Rainy dares not go to jail. If he goes to jail, his political life is over. I say his political career is over and ask: How old is he now? Could he serve several years in jail?”
Diep Sophal, a history professor, said that Mr Rainsy can’t return without a royal pardon, and the Prime Minister must ask the King for it. But the Prime Minister vowed in 2016 not to have him pardoned (for the third time), saying he would rather cut off his own hand than get him a pardon.