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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy ban to protect airport, official claims

Heavily armed Royal Cambodian Armed Forces members stand guard at the Phnom Penh International Airport in November last year after rumours Sam Rainsy would be returning to the country.
Heavily armed Royal Cambodian Armed Forces members stand guard at the Phnom Penh International Airport in November last year after rumours Sam Rainsy would be returning to the country. Heng Chivoan

Rainsy ban to protect airport, official claims

The official who issued the ban on opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia defended his decision in a radio interview on Tuesday, explaining that the directive was issued to avoid damage to airport infrastructure in the event that demonstrations broke out.

The ban on Rainsy’s return – and even on airplanes allowing him to board inbound flights – was issued by the Council of Ministers earlier this month, nearly a year after the CNRP leader again fled to Paris to avoid arrest. The ban, which amounts to state-sanctioned exile, has been roundly criticised by observers.

Tek Reth Samrach, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers who issued the ban, said in an interview with Vayo FM that his decision was justified.

“We have to prevent it in advance. We see that his trip to Cambodia in the future under these political circumstances will lead to demonstrations,” Reth Samrach said. “When he enters, he would be arrested. There will be demonstrations, there will protests.”

“At the airport, there is a lot of infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And each airplane is worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” the official said. “On behalf of the authorities, you have to take the responsibility to implement your obligations.”

“In this case, I am responsible,” he said. “For example, if he came and the airplane was on fire, who would be responsible? It’s only me in the end.”

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