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CNRP leaders Kem Sokha (centre left) and Sam Rainsy (centre right) meet with party officials last week in Manila to discuss action plans for the current political climate in Cambodia.
CNRP leaders Kem Sokha (centre left) and Sam Rainsy (centre right) meet with party officials last week in Manila to discuss action plans for the current political climate in Cambodia. Photo supplied

Rainsy addresses supporters, heads to France

Leaders of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday made a video appeal from the Philippines urging supporters not to waver ahead of upcoming elections, even as party president Sam Rainsy returned to France, where he has spent years in self-imposed exile in the past.

In a video recorded during a meeting with senior CNRP lawmakers in Manila on Saturday and posted on Rainsy’s Facebook page yesterday, Rainsy and deputy president Kem Sokha told supporters to refrain from violence following an arrest warrant and court summons being issued against Rainsy by a Cambodian court.

The two veteran politicians said the CNRP’s stance remained unchanged.

“Even though there were some recent political events that have changed things, our stance and goals remain the same. Our resolve and commitment is still the same.

We want to bring change [to Cambodia] and this change will come through peaceful elections,” Rainsy said. “Our position is one of non-violence and dignity to lead people towards prosperity.”

On Friday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a new summons to the embattled opposition leader, this time in connection with the case of jailed Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour.

Sok Hour was taken into custody on August 15 after Prime Minister Hun Sen called for his “urgent” arrest for posting a “fake” portion of a 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam border treaty on Rainsy’s Facebook page.

The summons came after Rainsy postponed a planned return to Cambodia on November 16 after a warrant was issued for his arrest over a defamation ruling stemming from comments he made in 2008 regarding Foreign Minister Hor Namhong’s role at a Khmer Rouge prison in the late 1970s, for which he could face a two-year jail term.

He has since gone on record repeating the allegations that Namhong was a “kapo” in the Boeung Trabek camp and was responsible for many deaths.

Both Rainsy and Sokha will not be returning to the Kingdom any time soon.

Rainsy yesterday boarded a flight to France and Sokha is headed to the United States, according to party spokesman Yem Ponharith, who said they would be attempting to seek political support.

Rainsy spent nearly four years in self-imposed exile in France to avoid being jailed on charges relating to the removal of markers along the Vietnamese border. He returned ahead of elections in 2013 as part of a political deal.

Rainsy on trial: view an interactive timeline of the opposition leader's ongoing legal battles

But CPP spokesman Sok Eysan scoffed at the thought that the two leaders would be able to garner interest in their cause.

“It’s their habit to run to America and to the European Union. I think [world leaders] won’t have time for them because of the threat of ISIS . . . I don’t think they care about [the CNRP].”

Ponharith of the CNRP, however, said that it was important for the leaders to meet with the international community “to explain the current situation and express their desire for political stability so that peaceful elections can be held”.

Meanwhile, two opposition lawmakers who were badly beaten last month outside the National Assembly during a protest by CPP supporters calling for Sokha’s resignation as deputy leader of parliament announced they plan to return to Cambodia tomorrow following weeks of medical treatment in Thailand.

Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were seriously injured in the October 26 attack, with Chamroeun yesterday saying that he had recovered “about 50 per cent”.

“My rib cage is still painful, but it’s got a bit better. My head has improved a bit but it still hurts a lot,” he said yesterday.

Early this month, three members of the military were charged with the pair’s assault, though several more assailants could be seen on video taking part.

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