Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly requested that Vietnam detain a “criminal” individual, should he attempt to enter the neighbouring country. Although he did not use the individual’s name, some analysts understood that he may have been referring to self-exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The request came as Hun Sen said he had received concrete information that the individual was trying to enter Vietnam using a French passport.

Addressing the June 7 groundbreaking ceremony of the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway and accompanying bridge across the Mekong River, Hun Sen explained that he had requested that the individual be arrested and extradited to Cambodia.

“I let the Vietnamese ambassador know that he intended to use a French passport to enter Vietnam, and that I have heard that he met with another individual to plan his entry. I have asked the ambassador to inform his nation’s authorities of my request. I am happy to speak openly about this,” he said.

“The individual planned to enter Malaysia and if Malaysia allowed him to leave, he intended to enter Thailand. Now, he is planning to use his French passport to enter Vietnam as a tourist. If he enters, I asked that he be arrested. He is subject to an arrest warrant, and we have an extradition agreement and legal cooperation agreement with Vietnam,” he added.

Hun Sen noted that the arrest warrant was issued after a 2019 attempt to incite members of the armed forces to rise up against the elected government.

“In 2019, you tried to convince the army to turn their guns on the government and arrest the prime minister. Tell me why I shouldn’t turn a BM-21 missile launcher on you. This is the last straw because you are attempting to wage war,” he said.

He suggested that political commentators and analysts listen closely to the comments of the unnamed individual, as he had often tried to foment a coup.

“The reason I mentioned a BM-21 was because you want to wage war – you called on members of the armed forces to shoot me. If you want to wage war, I must crush you,” he added.

In addition to the extradition request, Hun Sen hinted that bilateral relations with Vietnam will be strained, should the country not honour his appeal.

“If this criminal enters Vietnam and is not immediately arrested, we will have a problem with one another, to be frank. The courts are seeking the arrest of this convict,” he added.

Seng Vanly, a professor of international relations and a regional political observer, was of the view that even though the individual and his associates used foreign passports, the Vietnamese would not allow them to enter Vietnam, as they are aware of the group’s purpose.

“Following the prime minister’s request, I think the Vietnamese authorities will stay alert and prevent the individual from finding a chance to touch Vietnamese soil. Despite having a French passport, this is a political issue, so I think the French authorities will understand,” he said.

He added that it was also possible that Rainsy wants to be arrested in Vietnam, as he knows that he would then be sent to Cambodia.

“His last political chance is to enter the Kingdom, even if it is under arrest. I doubt that he will succeed in entering Vietnam, however,” he added.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin highlighted the legality of the prime minister’s request.

“We have an extradition agreement with Vietnam, and often assist one another with legal affairs relating to criminals. Even though there are no formal ASEAN agreements, the bloc is friendly and will cooperate with our requests,” he said.

Late last month, using a French passport, Sam Rainsy entered Malaysia without the knowledge of Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. He was unable to hold any public programmes and departed almost immediately, according to the Malaysian foreign ministry.