The General Immigration Department has ordered its officials to arrest former opposition leader Sam Rainsy should he return to the Kingdom.
GID director General Kirth Chantharith issued the order on Friday in accordance with three arrest warrants from Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
In the order, Gen Chantharith said immigration officials at airports and international border checkpoints must be vigilant and take action should Mr Rainsy arrive in the Kingdom via land, air or sea.
“There’s been some information that Mr Rainsy will return to the country,” he said. “I would like to remind all police officials, especially those stationed at international checkpoints, to take action immediately should he be spotted.”
Mr Rainsy, who is in exile in France, has been telling former opposition supporters overseas that he would return to Cambodia at some point this year.
National Police chief General Neth Savoeun said Mr Rainsy has created unlawful movements in the Kingdom and attempted to create chaos by announcing his return.
“We must take action. There are three arrest warrants I’ve obtained from court,” Gen Savoeun said. “All police officers must be ready to address this problem for our citizens.”
Gen Savoeun said some former opposition party supporters posted statements on Facebook and videos on YouTube expressing their loyalty to Mr Rainsy. He noted that these supporters should be closely monitored by authorities.
“People can join any political party,” Gen Savoeun said. “The Cambodian National Rescue Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court, so the movement is completely illicit.”
Since Mr Rainsy announced that he would return to Cambodia, government and military officials have been anticipating the arrival.
Last week, the National Defence Ministry said members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are ready to apprehend Mr Rainsy should he return. Several other institutions, such as the National Police, have also echoed the same vigilance.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said Mr Rainsy provoked a “bombastic” response from the General Immigration Department and those who oppose his return.
“It is more like a follow-up of the government’s bombastic response to Sam Rainsy’s return announcement,” Mr Mong Hay said. “It is a response which has the effect of making a mountain of a molehill.”
Mr Rainsy is currently wanted for arrest over multiple defamation convictions. Some defamation charges stemmed from complaints filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
In a post on social media yesterday, Mr Rainsy called on his supporters to come en masse to welcome him upon his return.
“We must take Cambodia back for Cambodian people. This is a historical event that you all must participate in,” he said, noting that he will not allow himself to be arrested. “This is a tough mission, but we must do it in 2019. I also would like to ask Cambodians living overseas and all migrant workers to return to the country with me.”
Mr Hun Sen yesterday also took to social media to pledge that the country will not be plunged into conflict under his leadership.
“The country is now developing with a strong economy and good social security,” he said. “It has attracted more foreign investors and tourists because we made great efforts and sacrificed a lot.”