Sam Rainsy plans to return to Cambodia in early October and has called on the
government to be responsible for any violent demonstrations that may occur
The opposition leader was responding to reports that two
student organizations have filed permits to protest his return.
not worried about any incident that might occur on my return, but I have to be
cautious," Rainsy said by phone from Paris.
"If there is a demonstration
and incitement of violence against me, the government must be responsible
because the government will know who they are," he said.
honorary vice president of the Cambodian People's Party, said the CPP and
coalition partner Funcinpec welcome the return of opposition leader.
"Whether he [Rainsy] comes back or stays [in exiled] depends on him and
he still has the right to attend meetings of the National Assembly, but when the
court needs him he must go," Samrin said.
Rainsy has been in self-imposed
exile since February 3, when the National Assembly voted to strip him and two
other opposition MPs of their parliamentary immunity. One of those MPs, Cheam
Channy, was sentenced to seven years jail for organizing a rebel army in a case
that was widely condemned by human rights observers.
Spokesman of the
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Ung Bun-Ang, said there was concern that Rainsy might
also be linked to the rebel army charges.
"There is some risk associated
with his returning to Cambodia," Bun-Ang said. "The ruling party will try
whatever they can to put pressure on the opposition."
On September 19,
Seng Phally, president of the Cambodian Higher Education Association (CHEA),
wrote to the Phnom Penh municipality seeking permission to protest Rainsy when
"Rainsy organized a demonstration in front of the UN; he
destroyed the honor of the government and caused a loss of [international] aid
that would effect Cambodian people as a whole," Phally said.
later, University of Law and Economic Sciences professor Yok Ngoy released an
anti-Rainsy statement and said his group planned to hold a peaceful
demonstration against the opposition leader on his return.
signed by Ngoy said that Sam Rainsy was a criminal, against peace and was behind
the recruitment of an illegal army, the Committee 14 shadow ministry.
The protest threats increase the pressure against Rainsy, adding to two
defamation suits filed against him and one against his wife.
Hun Sen is
suing Rainsy for defamation for linking the prime minister to the 1997 grenade
attack on a peaceful demonstration led by Rainsy.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh is suing the opposition leader for accusing the prince
of accepting $30 million from Hun Sen in exchange for agreeing to form a
coalition government with the CPP.
More recently, the chief of Hun Sen's
bodyguard unit, Hing Bun Heang, also lodged a complaint against Rainsy's wife,
Tioulong Saumura, and party secretary-general Eng Chhay Eang, alleging
defamation for connecting him to the 1997 grenade attack.
Hun Sen warned
August 15 that the issue of the shadow army will not finish with Channy, which
some members of the opposition considered a threat to Rainsy.
military investigation judge Pork Pan said September 20 that since Channy's
imprisonment police have not started any new investigations into others
connected to the allegations of a shadow army.
Keo Remy, an opposition
parliamentarian, said the defamation lawsuits and the allegations of the shadow
army were attempts by the ruling coalition to take political revenge against the
SRP for trying to address the issue of corruption in the government.
think that my president would be arrested when he is in Cambodia, because the
legal process will be done in a minute when the ruling parties are not happy,"
Remy said. "I think that before Rainsy decides to come back, he must make his
safety a priority."
It is unclear what will happen to the opposition
party if Rainsy does not return soon.
On the optimistic end of the
spectrum, Bun-Ang said that the party has functioned for seven months without
Rainsy, and there is no need for him to be in the country all the time.
But Khem Veasna, a former opposition parliamentarian who was ousted by
the party in July, told the Post that the SRP has been ruined by the nepotistic
allocation of positions.
"I tried to push for reform and encouraged them
to manage human resources at all levels of the party's mechanism, instead of
promoting relatives," Veasna said.
He predicted that SRP would not
increase the number of seats it controls in the National Assembly at the next
national election in 2008.
Khem's claims were met with laughter by
Bun-Ang, who said the party had few high-ranking positions to offer and Veasna's
comments were the result of factional battles within the SRP.
organization there are always factions. But the issue is how we manage those
factions, and I think that the SRP has been doing well in term of managing the
factions within the party."
The major factional rift within the SRP is
seen to pit Sam Rainsy and his supporters against Eng Chhay Eang and his
Chea Poch, one of the SRP members stripped of parliamentary
immunity, dismissed the criticisms.
"I don't care whatever the other
people say - working harder with the villagers in the constituency will prove
whether the party is strong or weak," Poch said.