Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue a statement to the French government regarding allegations made by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who tricked some of his supporters into seeking political asylum in France. Hun Sen noted that this was not the first time Rainsy had done so.

The prime minister discussed the issue while meeting with factory workers in Kampong Chhnang province last week, noting that he had come into possession of several documents relating to the case of a woman who was duped into fleeing to France.

The prime minister issued the request and shared it via social media on June 10, with several relevant documents attached.

He suggested that the documents also indicated a link between the Candlelight Party (CP) and the now defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

One, a November letter from Rainsy which featuring the letterhead of the court-dissolved CNRP, stated that Nhem Savath has been a member of the banned party since 2013, and was an activist in Phnom Penh.

“If she returned to Cambodia, she would certainly face repressive measures that would put her freedom, and even her life, in danger,” it read.

The second letter, issued a week before Rainsy’s, claimed that Savath was a member of the current opposition CP. The letter was signed by party president Teav Vannul.

He also posted a video by Savath, in which she explained that she had been duped into entering France, and had received no support from the CNRP once she arrived there.

“Please listen to Nhem Savath explain the evils of the scammers. She will explain more when she returns from France in the coming days,” said the prime minister.

In her 18-minute video, Savath described the deception and corruption of opposition members abroad, who persuaded her to sell her property and flee to seek political asylum in France.

She claimed that it was not only former opposition supporter who had been tricked, but also the French government, saying the overwhelming propaganda, deception and corruption within the party had left her with no choice but to speak out.

Hun Sen also called for legal scholars to assess the legality of Savath’s alleged membership of the two parties, one of which had been outlawed by the Supreme Court.

“Lawyers must look into the legal aspects of the CP letter signed by Teav Vannol and the defunct CNRP letter signed by the exiled convict, in order to assess the relationship between the two,” he said, referring to Rainsy.

Candlelight Party spokesman Kim Souphirith said on June 11 that he was unaware of the issue, but noted that it predated his membership of the CP, and declined to comment.

Chin Malin, Ministry of Justice spokesman, noted that he had yet to assess the case, but reiterated that the authorities would investigate the facts and relevant laws and take appropriate legal action if wrongdoing was determined to have taken place.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said there are two aspects to this issue. The first is related to the legal issues surrounding the relationship between the CP and the former CNRP. The second regards the foreign ministry’s clarification to the French government of the rights of former CNRP activists on French soil.

He explained that if the court finds that the CP is indeed affiliated with the former CNRP, it is likely to face severe legal repercussions.

“The foreign ministry should issue a letter to their French counterparts stating that the former CNRP has been dissolved by a Supreme Court ruling and that the party has no legal authority to engage in political activities. It is illegal to issue documents on behalf of the CNRP,” he continued.

Phea added that the French government’s perception and assessment of the former CNRP’s legal letter was a matter for the French government, and was thus outside Cambodian jurisdiction, but that any individual or party in Cambodian territory attached to the former party would face legal consequences.

The prime minister has often called on the CP to comment on their relationship with Sam Rainsy and the former CNRP. The CP has always claimed that they have no connection with the dissolved party or its leader, who is living in self-imposed exile in France.