Plans for a thousands-strong CNRP-led rally to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Sunday remained up in the air yesterday, with the Ministry of Interior maintaining it had received no request for such a gathering.
After approaching City Hall for permission on Wednesday, the opposition was informed by the municipality that the matter would be taken up by the Interior Ministry given the large size of the event.
However, ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesteday said he could not comment on a request that had yet-to-be received.“You have heard this from someone else, but are asking the Ministry of Interior [to comment],” he said. “The people working here are not as fast as you think.”
However, City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada and CNRP Long Ry both confirmed the request had been sent to the ministry on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday night, self-exiled CNRP president Sam Rainsy posted a video excerpt from a Tuesday teleconference address to supporters in Siem Reap province in which he vowed, albeit on wildly unlikely conditions, to “come back to Cambodia soon”.
“I, Sam Rainsy, will come back to Cambodia immediately,” he said. “At that time, I will prepare myself, buy plane tickets and travel in two to three days.”
Last November, Rainsy reneged on a promise to return to Cambodia when faced with an arrest warrant for a 2011 defamation conviction. He has been in self exile ever since.
Reached yesterday, Rainsy said his return depended on a guarantee that “all political prisoners be released from jail upon my setting foot on Cambodia’s soil”. A similar request by Rainsy to take the place in prison of his party members and those jailed alongside them was purportedly conveyed by party spokesman Yim Sovann on Monday, but was allegedly turned down by the prisoners.
Rainsy is not the only CNRP member facing legal tussles. Yesterday, acting president Kem Sokha’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said he had filed an appeal with the Supreme Court challenging the lower court’s procedures that led to the conviction of Sokha last month for failing to appear for prior summonses. An appeal has already been filed in the Appeal Court challenging Sokha’s five-month sentence.
“He has parliamentary immunity and it was not a red-handed crime, so he had a clear reason to not appear before the court,” Sokong said.
Additionally, Sokong filed an appeal yesterday in the Appeal Court relating to the 30-month sentence handed out to jailed CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An last week for his Facebook posts regarding the controversial issue of the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.