In a Facebook post on Sunday, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy once again claimed he will return to the Kingdom this year. But critics derided his claims saying Rainsy had neither the ability nor the means to return to Cambodia.
His latest claim to return came while Rainsy was in Seattle, US, this week, where he reiterated his intention to “give the country back to the people”.
In a video clip posted on his official Facebook page, Rainsy said: “From Seattle, today I would like to affirm to my compatriots that my return to Cambodia will serve to give it back to the Cambodian people. Join this mission together brothers and sisters! Compatriots in Cambodia wait for us."
“I will go back to Cambodia in 2019, not to let Hun Sen arrest me, but to ensure that millions of Cambodians will rise up to arrest Hun Sen and prosecute him for treason,” he claimed.
Rainsy said millions of exiled Cambodians in Asean and worldwide will return with him.
However, at a Royal Academy of Cambodia forum to discuss the possibility of Rainsy’s return that was held on Friday, widespread scepticism was the order of the day.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan, a speaker at the forum, predicted six outcomes should Rainsy attempt a return.
These included him facing legal action brought against him by the courts; being barred from boarding a flight to Cambodia and facing protests by supporters of CNRP president Kem Sokha.
The other predictions are Rainsy facing possible protests by the 83.2 per cent who voted in the national elections last year; and facing the resistance of the armed forces that have vowed to protect Cambodia’s peace, political stability and public order under Prime Minister Hun Sen.
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As for his sixth prediction, he said: “Only Prime Minister Hun Sen has the privilege of requesting a royal pardon [for Rainsy] after the Supreme Court’s verdict goes into force,” referring to the slew of legal charges and convictions Rainsy faces in Cambodia.
Royal Academy of Cambodia President Sok Touch also provided four reasons that made him doubt Rainsy would return.
He said Cambodians were busy with their daily business, leaving them little time to be concerned about Rainsy’s return and that the next national election is scheduled for five years from now, so the opposition party is currently less significant.
Touch also said that as Cambodia is currently enjoying more than seven per cent annual economic growth, there was little desire for change and protest among the Kingdom’s citizens.
Finally, he said that as the government was easing Cambodia’s business environment to compete in the globalised world, foreign powers would care less about Rainsy nor would want to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs.
Touch speculated that Rainsy’s claims of returning were just a strategy to collect money.
“He is collecting money from his supporters because he has been spending it for a long time already. [Rainsy is suggesting] 'if you contribute to me, I will come back. I need $300,000 to support my return."
“What are you going to do with $300,000? It’s not enough to rent trucks to transport 400 factory workers to join your protests,” he said.
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He added that the likelihood of Rainsy returning will become less predictable the closer the Kingdom gets to the 2023 national elections.
Kong Korm, a former close ally of Rainsy’s at the Sam Rainsy Party and the CNRP, on Saturday also slammed Rainsy, saying he was a liar, protector of impunity, destroyer of Cambodia’s democracy, a colluder with foreign powers, and delusional.
“I predict that there is no third pardon for Sam Rainsy because there was already a clear determination [of this]."
“I believe that parliament and the government in this sixth mandate will function as normal until the end,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe the CNRP would be reborn.
Meanwhile, when speaking at a police ceremony in Prey Veng province on Friday, national police chief Neth Savoeun said he had already received three court orders to arrest Rainsy.
“The outlawed party is now taking part in political warfare by creating a movement calling for Rainsy’s return to Cambodia."
“Currently, there are three court verdicts issued [against Rainsy] for the police to welcome him [if he returns],” he said.