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Rainsy rebuffs Prime Minister

Mom Sophon / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mr Rainsy says he will return when all threats of jail against him are lifted. KT/Chor Sokunthea

It has taken former opposition leader Sam Rainsy less than 24 hours to reject the Prime Minister’s invitation to return to Cambodia.
Mr Hun Sen announced on Tuesday that he had lifted the ban on Mr Rainsy stepping foot in the country and dared him to accept the offer, despite the exile knowing he would be imprisoned for past crimes as soon he did so.
The offer was immediately rebuffed. Mr Rainsy, who originally fled Cambodia to escape arrest, took to Twitter and made it clear the mere lifting of the ban was not acceptable.
“When all obstacles to my safe return and freedom of movement are cleared, I will return to #Cambodia. #SamRainsy”, he tweeted. He said nothing else about his plans.
Mr Rainsy, who has been living in France, was banned by the Office of the Council of Ministers from returning home last October.Two months later he was jailed in absentia for five years for conspiring to forge a document relating to his publication of a map of the border with Vietnam.
In March this year he was jailed for a further 20 months for accusing the government of being behind the murder of political and social analyst Kem Ley.
His rejection of the government’s lifting of the ban was immediately mocked by Mr Hun Sen.
“Hero, please come back to the country,” he said sarcastically while addressing a graduation ceremony at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.
Mr Hun Sen challenged his old rival to be good to his word – Mr Rainsy had previously pledged to come home as soon as the ban was lifted, whether or not prison sentences were hanging over him.
“He should come back and face justice. For the hero to even have the possibility of being pardoned he needs to return to Cambodia, even if that is at the risk of prison or death.”
He also questioned Mr Rainsy’s U-turn on being willing to serve time. “What is behind his change of mind?” he asked. 
“He had promised he wasn’t afraid of going to prison, so why doesn’t he come back?
“If he should step foot on Cambodian soil, yes, he would be arrested because that is the order of the prosecutors. It is nothing to do with me.” 
A political science professor, So Chantha, said the government could not be accused of plotting against Mr Rainsy.
“It is simply that he has not been pardoned for past offences,” said Mr Chantha. “If Mr Sam Rainsy were to return and become leader of the opposition, it could lead to the CNRP being dissolved according to the new law which outlaws convicted prisoners taking part in politics.”

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