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Rainsy keeping his head down

Rainsy keeping his head down

S AM Rainsy has publicly ruled out starting a new political party - largely

because he fears dangerous repercussions.

The former MP, expelled from

the National Assembly in June in disputed legal circumstances, said last week he

would tone down his political activities and concentrate on "social

work".

He said he feared provoking intimidation or violence against he or

his supporters if he took "too strong" a political line.

"First of all, I

have to be able to stay in Cambodia," he said, speaking on a brief return trip

to Cambodia, his first since going abroad after his expulsion.

"I think

it is essential for me to be able to live in the country and work with people in

the social field [in a way] that people who work with me don't face any

danger."

Referring to his private bodyguards - who were detained and

allegedly beaten by soldiers last month - he said: "I don't want those people to

be harassed, to be jailed, to be beaten, to be tortured."

"It is not only

my bodyguards but people who would support me if I formed a political

party.

"Those who came to ask for membership cards, those who gave their

houses to open [party] offices in the provinces, I think they would face a lot

of stress and terrible problems."

There was no need to establish a new

party, he said, when the next elections were three years away.

"But we

can start to build a network. You don't need to build a political party, but a

network of people who share the same ideas.

"I have been advised not to

go ahead too fast and I agreed."

But Rainsy warned that further National

Assembly expulsions - such as that of Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP)

MPs whose seats are in jeopardy - would inevitably produce an opposition

alliance.

"If the top leaders of this country push for the expulsion of

[BLDP's] Son Soubert, Kem Sokha, Pol Ham, Son Sann, I think there will be a de

facto alliance because many people will have no other way to do

politics.

"The government must think about that. I know for sure they

would not like an alliance to be created between BLDP, a faction of Funcinpec,

Molinaka, smaller political parties and myself."

He suggested the

government was more afraid of a "peaceful, democratic, liberal, legal"

opposition movement than of the Khmer Rouge.

BLDP MP Son Soubert, whose

father Son Sann heads one of two factions which have split the party, has

previously said he could "of course" work with Rainsy.

Rainsy said "I

haven't decided anything" in the long-term, but for now his priority was to help

alleviate the problems of Khmers, such as food and water shortages.

"If

you help dig canals and wells... nobody can say anything. All this work is not

political work."

As for his reinstatement to the Funcinpec party - which

party secretary Prince Norodom Sirivudh has publicly pledged to try to achieve -

Rainsy said that was "not my main concern now".

"Prince Sirivudh told me

I should keep quiet, that he will arrange that I can be reintegrated into

Funcinpec... I just say 'OK' to Prince Sirivudh, but I am not really

hopeful."

Rainsy said he had little doubt the government did not want him

in Cambodia.

While overseas, he had received many telephone calls, some

anonymous and others from people claiming to be friends, suggesting he would be

arrested or harmed if he returned to Cambodia.

He said even his mother in

France was approached by people claiming to be motivated by concern for her

son's well-being.

"She is afraid. She is 80-years-old. She says 'Oh, let

me die before you go back to Cambodia, I don't want to see you die before

me'."

Rainsy left Cambodia again last week, for trips to the United

States and Europe which he said had been scheduled long in advance.

He

had previously visited France, Japan, Switzerland, England and Belgium, to meet

foreign MPs.

His aims abroad, he said, were to publicize the political

situation in Cambodia and urge action to prevent more expulsions of

MPs.

Rainsy was pleased with the number of foreign parliamentarians, and

independent organizations, who had publicly opposed his expulsion.

He was

diplomatic about the level of support from foreign governments, saying: "I

understand that governments cannot intervene openly and I know even though many

governments have not said anything officially, they have acted discreetly [to

raise their concerns]."

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