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Rainsy invited to return … to prison

Cheang Sokha and Mom Sophon / Khmer Times Share:

The government yesterday lifted its ban on former opposition leader Sam Rainsy returning to Cambodia.
It also reversed its order that all airlines and international airports put Mr Rainsy on a no-fly list.
If the former CNRP leader were to fly home, however, he could expect to spend a long time in jail over a string of convictions.
Mr Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile in France.
In December last year he was sentenced to five years in jail for conspiring to forge a public document related to the border treaty with Vietnam. Two of his assistants, who are also overseas, were convicted on the same charge. 
In March this year, he was also jailed for 20 months in absentia for accusing the government of being behind the murder of political and social analyst Kem Ley.
Mr Rainsy said recently he wanted to return to Cambodia before next year’s general election to compete for the position of prime minister with the CPP’s incumbent, Hun Sen.
He told Radio Free Asia: “I am a candidate to be prime minister so, Mr Hun Sen, please be brave and don’t prevent me from competing with you.” 
Although the King has not awarded Mr Rainsy a royal pardon, Mr Rainsy said he would return to Cambodia if the ban was lifted, even though he knew that would mean returning to face justice.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said yesterday the removal of the ban was within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of government, which could not, however, have any influence on the court.
Mr Malin said: “Although the announcement allows Mr Rainsy to enter the county, the original sentence of the court will continue to stand unless he receives a royal pardon.
“As long as he comes into the country as a convicted prisoner, the authorities would be obliged to arrest him to serve his sentence.” 
Mr Rainsy, a long-time rival of Mr Hun Sen, says the convictions and charges he faces are politically motivated.
He stepped down as leader of the CNRP in February before CPP lawmakers amended the law so convicted people could not enter politics.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann applauded the ending of the ban, saying it could lead to a political resolution. “He is Cambodian so he should have the right to live in Cambodia,” he said.  
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that now the government has lifted the ban, Mr Rainsy would be exposed as a coward if he did not return home.

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