A HANDFUL of opposition party officials held an informal meeting last night to discuss details surrounding self-exiled leader Sam Rainsy’s return, though the party continued to remain tight-lipped regarding specifics.
Some three days after Rainsy’s bombshell announcement, neither he nor his party have announced a date.
“He will arrive soon,” is all lawmaker Mu Sochua would say yesterday.
Reached following the meeting, party spokesman Yim Sovann said no date had yet been decided upon.
On Saturday, Rainsy announced that he would return to Cambodia before the election, though he faces over a decade of jail time barring a last-minute deal.
In 2006, an almost identical situation ended with Rainsy’s return from self-imposed exile after the government gave him a royal pardon for an 18-month conviction in exchange for an apology.
Rainsy has not answered questions as to whether he would be willing to apologise to the government for removing a border post and faking public documents – charges his supporters maintain are politically motivated.
Ministry of Justice chief of cabinet Sam Prachea Meanith said they had received no pardon order as of yesterday.
“[Sam Rainsy] is still a convicted person according to the court decision,” he said.
On July 13, Rainsy claimed to have sent a letter to King Norodom Sihamoni requesting a pardon, but palace officials denied the letter’s existence.
“There’s no pardon,” said Oum Daravuth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Royal Palace, adding that he did not know if any letter had been sent.
The CNRP promised yesterday that thousands would turn up at the airport upon Rainsy’s return, but police remained adamant that – crowds or not – they intended to arrest Rainsy upon landing.
“We are law enforcers and he is the target who the court has ordered us to arrest. So, we have no choice, we must enforce according to the law.”
Rainsy has reportedly been seeking assistance from US and European officials. On Monday, the Associate Press reported that a US State Department spokesperson addressed his case, saying that the US was pushing for his return.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE AND ABBY SEIFF