The Council of Ministers issued a letter this morning to lift the travel ban on former opposition president Sam Rainsy, eight months after the government formally banned airlines from flying him into the country.
Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile since November 2015 following the issuing of a warrant for his arrest. The ban was formalised by an October 12, 2016, Council of Minister’s letter warning airlines against allowing him to board a flight headed to the country.
Border checkpoints and other ports of entry were also put on alert to prevent a Rainsy return.
The June 14 letter is addressed to National Police chief Neth Savoeun and head of Immigration Department Sok Phal asking that the letter banning Rainsy’s entry be cancelled on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“The government has decided to cancel the 12th October, 2016, letter of the Council of Ministers on the case of Sam Rainsy,” the letter reads. The letter makes no mention of Rainsy’s numerous prior convictions.
Sok Phal said he had received the letter and that his department would implement it but said any questions relating specifically to the airline ban should be directed to the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan and ruling party spokesmen could not be reached this morning.
CNRP deputy president Mu Sochua welcomed the move today. “Any measure taken to respect the constitutional rights of Sam Rainsy as a Cambodian citizen is welcomed. He has a right to come back,” she said, adding that Rainsy had expressed his intent to come back to the country last night on a Radio Free Asia broadcast.
In the interview, Rainsy called on Prime Minster Hun Sen to allow airlines to bring him back to the country, saying he wanted to take on the premier in next year’s national elections.
“Please, Mr. Hun Sen be brave and do not prevent me from competing with you like boxers [in a ring],” he told RFA’s Chun Chanboth.