Sam Rainsy on Tuesday said that “as a democrat” he is ready to negotiate the return to the Kingdom of any assets seized from Cambodian officials under legislation being considered by the US.
Introduced in May, the Cambodian Democracy Act of 2018 can freeze assets, restrict all financial transactions with the US and deny entry into the country of all senior Cambodian government, military and security officials who President Donald Trump determines have “directly and substantially undermined democracy in Cambodia”.
The former leader of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Rainsy said in an interview with Radio Free Asia: “The CNRP and I, Sam Rainsy, will urge the US to return all confiscated money to repay the Cambodian people because that money is the sweat and blood of Khmer people,” he said.
However, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed Rainsy’s interview as part of a “plot” as the Kingdom’s July 29 national elections approach.
Eysan said: “This is just part of a plot by the opposition inside and outside the country as the elections draw closer.
“[The government] does not support corruption, so any money confiscated – with clear evidence as having come from corruption – and returned to help the Cambodian economy, we will welcome.
“But I am convinced it does not exist. So there is nothing to be confiscated.”
Rainsy compared senior officials in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos, who he said had millions of dollars from corruption held in American and European banks.
He claimed that after Marcos’s ousting, such money was frozen and confiscated, with Philippine democrats negotiating its return to repay Filipinos and for national development.
Similarly, for senior CPP officials, Rainsy alleged that the US would seize millions of dollars from them after they had been blacklisted.
He said his group of democrats would then follow the Philippine example to see that money returned to help the Cambodian people.
“After the US puts high-ranking CPP officials on their blacklist, they will no longer be allowed to step on American soil, and the US will move to confiscate their [ill-gotten] money, starting with freezing their assets."
“It will be impossible to take back that money kept in the US for personal use because they will know it came from corruption."
“[This will also be a warning to] Hun Sen and his companions who think they can put money somewhere nobody can find it. In this day and age, nothing can be hidden for a long time."
“We will find it and repay the Cambodian people, to pay for their land, for whatever they have lost,” he said.