Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, currently the subject of an arrest warrant issued on Friday, will not return to Cambodia tonight as promised, according to a statement on his Facebook account.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party president was due to arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport from South Korea, where he has been visiting supporters, at 10:20pm tonight.
Speculation has been rife as to whether Rainsy would return after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant asking police to enforce a 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, for which Rainsy was sentenced to two years in prison.
In his message, posted just after 4pm, Rainsy said he would return in the next few days, citing advice that he should arrive at daytime and allow time for diplomatic intervention.
“After consulting with colleagues in Cambodia and a number of international pro-democracy organizations that have suggested that I should arrive in Phnom Penh in broad daylight and that I should also leave some time for diplomatic intervention to materialize with the objective of reaching a peaceful solution to the recent escalation of violence in Cambodia, I am not arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport tonight at 22:20 as originally scheduled, but will be back in Cambodia in the next few days,” the statement reads.
Speaking to supporters on the weekend, Rainsy said he was prepared “to die” to “rescue our nation”.
Earlier today, Interior Minister Sar Kheng oversaw the creation a special arrest commission, tasked with seizing Rainsy.
The commission, led by Interior Ministry Secretary of State Em Sam An and National Police Commissioner Neth Saveoun, was split into two “working groups” with one designated to cover Phnom Penh and the other dispatched to Siem Reap, following earlier reports that the opposition leader may arrive at Siem Reap International Airport.
Following this, the National Assembly's permanent committee, at a session boycotted by the opposition, revoked Rainsy’s position as a lawmaker for Kampong Cham, leaving him without the protection of parliamentary immunity.
Citing the arrest warrant, the decision, according to National Assembly president and permanent committee head Heng Samrin, is based on the constitution, provision 83 of the National Assembly’s Internal Regulations and Article 139 of the law on the election of members of the National Assembly.
However, a parliamentary legal adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision was “a clear violation of the law”.
The government has denied the warrant is politically motivated, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday threatening the opposition leader with legal action and the warrant emerging just a day later.
Rainsy faces a two-year jail sentence related to the 2011 conviction on charges of defamation and incitement for a 2008 speech given at Choeung Ek Genocide Center in which he asserted that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had run the Khmer Rouge’s Boeung Trabek detention facility.