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International group calls for Rainsy return

International group calls for Rainsy return

An international union of parliamentarians has urged the government to restore opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s status as a member of parliament, arguing that the criminal convictions that led to his flight from Cambodia were legally unjustified.

A resolution obtained by The Post yesterday, submitted on April 20 by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, argued: “It is becoming ever more urgent to review Mr Sam Rainsy’s case and to rehabilitate him ... to stand in the next parliamentary elections.”

The IPU resolution claimed that Rainsy’s removal of a demarcation post in Svay Rieng province on the Vietnamese border in late 2009 was a political gesture rather than a criminal act.

It also stated that Sam Rainsy’s subsequent publication of a map alleging Vietnamese encroachments into Cambodian territory also did not constitute a criminal act because no recognised map of the border’s demarcation existed.

In Cambodia, however, Sam Rainsy received a two-year prison sentence in January 2010 for destroying public property and racial incitement in relation to the removal of the border demarcation posts.

Last September, he was found guilty of disinformation and falsifying public documents regarding the publication of the  maps and sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison.

[He] is like the Khmer Rouge saying: 'If we keep him, there's no profit; if we throw him away, there's no loss'

In March, his parliamentary status was revoked by the National Assembly because his criminal convictions had rendered him ineligible to serve as a lawmaker. With a recent defamation conviction in a case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, he now faces a 14-year jail term should be return to the Kingdom.
Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap yesterday rejected the IPU resolution, though he conceded that it was technically possible for the opposition leader to return to politics if pardoned by the King or the National Assembly.

“I would like to inform Mr Sam Rainsy that it is too late for resolving other problems in order to return home,” he said. “I completely reject [the resolution]. The IPU is not a Cambodian court, it does not understand anything.”

He added that if Sam Rainsy really wanted to return to Cambodia from France, where he is living in self-imposed exile, he should be prepared to go to jail.

“Mr Sam Rainsy is like the Khmer Rouge saying: ‘If we keep him, there’s no profit; if we throw him away, there’s no loss,’” Cheam Yeap said.

Sam Rainsy argued yesterday that the government had no choice but to respect such resolutions made by the international community if it expected it to help resolve Cambodia’s violent border dispute with Thailand, which has seen more deadly clashes take place in recent weeks after fighting broke out on April 22.

“The Cambodian government needs the support of the international community with our border conflict with Thailand, so we have to show a good face to the international community,” he said.

His exclusion as the leader of the largest opposition party from upcoming elections in 2012 and 2013 would expose Cambodia’s “democratic façade”, he added, leaving any elected government illegitimate in the eyes of the international community.

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