Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a British television show he hopes the international community will pressure Prime Minister Hun Sen to grant him a royal pardon, while allowing he was “considering” coming back to Cambodia even without a deal.
Speaking on an episode of BBC’s HardTalk broadcast yesterday evening, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president largely balked at questions about returning to Cambodia from France, where he fled last year to avoid arrest in a case widely considered politically motivated.
Pushed by host Sarah Montague, Rainsy said he wanted the international community to pressure the prime minister, a strategy Montague repeatedly called into question, at one time asking “what are they going to do?”
“When Hun Sen feels the pressure of the international community, because Cambodia depends on international assistance, then he will accept and he will push the King to pardon me,” Rainsy said. “But without political will, there will be no pardon from the King. I expect a political resolution thanks to the pressure of the international community.”
Hun Sen has previously said he would “cut off his arm” before granting Rainsy a pardon like the one that allowed him to come back in time for the 2013 elections. Via email yesterday, Rainsy said he wanted the international community to “reverse [Hun Sen’s] authoritarian drift”, calling into question his government’s legitimacy.
He suggested measures targeting individual leaders with “name and shame” tactics, visa bans and asset freezes, on top of economic sanctions.
However, addressing the General Assembly’s 71st session in New York on Saturday, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon defended the government, saying Cambodia was often “misunderstood”.
Describing Cambodia’s tumultuous recent history, he said the Paris peace accords – which laid the foundation for the Kingdom’s multi-party system – had created a “perfect model of democracy”.
“This does not take into account the fact that some other countries have a different approach,” he said, before accusing opposition politicians of committing “very serious crimes”.
Meanwhile, National Assembly secretary-general Leng Peng Long yesterday announced the parliament would convene for a plenary session early next month after the Pchum Ben holiday. During his interview, Sam Rainsy said the CNRP would still maintain its boycott of plenary sessions but would meet via the parliamentary committees.
Reached yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the party had yet to decide whether or not to attend the session.
He added that CNRP chief whip Son Chhay’s vow last week to end the boycott in order to query senior ministers was Chhay’s “personal opinion”.