Police will immediately arrest opposition leader Sam Rainsy if he returns to Cambodia as he has vowed to do before the election, a message posted on the National Police website declared yesterday.
The self-exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party leader and his senior party members have declared Rainsy will definitely return to Cambodia, despite facing more than a decade in jail terms, before the July 28 poll.
But the CNRP have refused to commit to an exact date when Rainsy will return, saying the decision must be decided by the party’s permanent committee, which has been unable to meet yet despite news of the opposition leader’s bold gesture filtering out as early as last Friday.
A message posted on the National Police website quoting spokesman Kirt Chantharith said police would enforce existing warrants against Rainsy.
“So far, [we] have not known whether or not he will come. But in the case that Mr Sam Rainsy really comes, the National Police, which is the executive law [enforcement] institution, has no choice beside enforcing the warrant of the court,” Chantharith was quoted as saying.
On June 13, Rainsy wrote directly to King Norodom Sihamoni requesting the monarch enact his powers to pardon Rainsy from convictions for uprooting demarcation posts on the Vietnamese border, producing maps claiming territorial encroachment and defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
In that letter, Rainsy wrote that he had interpreted two speeches Prime Minister Hun Sen gave in early June as the premier signalling he was seeking a political compromise to the CNRP leader’s effective expulsion from the elections.
Rainsy continued yesterday to ignore questions from reporters, and no one from his party would be drawn on when the opposition leader would actually return.
CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said the party would announce the date Rainsy would return after the permanent committee met, but declined to specify when that might happen.
“At this moment, we are ready. This is very serious and we will implement it,” she said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday he was unaware of any efforts by Rainsy to seek a compromise with Prime Minister Hun Sen, but was aware the opposition leader had written to the King. “That’s the game of Sam Rainsy trying to manipulate the King,” he said.
Sok Sam Ouen, Cambodia’s leading legal aid lawyer, said the King could legally pardon Rainsy independently of the government, though to do so was contrary to general procedures and highly unlikely.
Rainsy has long lobbied the international community to intervene on his behalf and declare any election in which he cannot participate invalid.
Yesterday, he sent a letter to 18 countries that were signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, imploring them to remain committed to the values of human rights, democracy and rule of law enshrined in that document.
US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh wrote in an email yesterday: “We believe free and fair elections require . . . the unfettered participation of opposition parties, including one of the leading opposition leaders.”