Sam Rainsy has claimed that his announced return on November 9 is an “opportunity for a return to dialogue and reconciliation”, and called for guarantees from the UN and the international community.
However, he ignored the fact that he had repeatedly called for a coup and urged the people and soldiers to rise against Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Rainsy had also previously said his return was not to negotiate with Hun Sen but to arrest him and let the people judge him.
The “acting president” of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) made his latest claims in a three-page letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Coly Seck last week.
“We voice an appeal for the UN Human Rights Council and the international community to guarantee that the announced return of the exiled opposition leaders in November 2019 is turned into an opportunity to return to dialogue and reconciliation,” Rainsy wrote.
His appeal echoed the recommendations of Rhona Smith, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, who recently submitted her annual report the UNHRC.
It recommended the creation of a space for political dialogue between the government and opposition political actors, including members of the CNRP.
“For its part, the CNRP commits itself to be the most constructive partner and align itself fully with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to work on the creation of ‘a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation’, and of ‘a new political culture, focusing on issues, openness to different opinions and the free expression of ideas, ensuring a shared future that benefits all Cambodians’,” Rainsy’s letter concluded.
The letter was also aimed at informing the UNHRC of the situation regarding the former CNRP members and activists who had been “harassed, detained and charged”.
“This level of unprecedented fear and persecution by the authorities, including threats, intimidation, harassment, false accusations and serial arrest constitutes gross violations of human rights,” Rainsy said.
Such conditions, he said, had far-reaching consequences, including family separations, the disruption of daily lives, children stopped from going to school and farms left unattended.
He said, “the situation would deteriorate with the possible suspension of trade preferences caused by the disrespect of human rights”.
Rainsy was seemingly referring to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The 28-member bloc is due to submit a report to the government outlining its decision on Cambodia’s access to the preferences within the next three months.
He also appealed to the UN, Asean, the EU, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and other bodies to offer support for the “determination” of the CNRP leaders’ return and “their quest for the revival of democratic Cambodia”.
The CNRP co-founder had announced that he and other senior CNRP leaders would return to the Kingdom on November 9.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said Rainsy was planning a coup to topple the government, with the announcement of a budget for soldiers who defected from the prime minister, and that was “unacceptable”.
He said the government had taken into account Rainsy’s attack on King Norodom Sihamoni, which amounted to a breach of the Constitution, with a planned coup to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen making discussions even more “difficult”.
“He is a convict who is in the process of organising a coup, so it is difficult for us to hold discussions with him. The government was born from elections to protect the Constitution, the King, social stability and national security,” Siphan stressed.
In an interview earlier this month with Radio Free Asia, Rainsy said the King was the “puppet” of Hun Sen.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said based on their recent statements and actions, both sides of the Cambodian political divide were digging in their heels, with their behaviour less and less rational.
“In such a situation, it is very difficult to see them reach out to each other unless and until a very credible and well respected international reconciler offers his or her good offices to break the ice and help them to do so,” Mong Hay said.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said there were three aspects of note regarding Rainsy’s letter to the UNHRC.
“He wants support from the international community to return. He will use this as a pretext, claiming he cannot return without it. He is also trying to push Prime Minister Hun Sen to the negotiating table,” Touch said.
He said Rainsy was afraid to come back to Cambodia, so was he looking for other ways to put pressure on Hun Sen, including by seeking pressure from the international community.
“Finally, he will return to these pretexts as a way to defend himself when he fails to return to the Kingdom,” Touch said.