PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia’s main opposition leader has hit back at the government after it issued an order in an attempt to ban him from returning to the country ahead of a general election scheduled for 2018.
Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said that the move was a symptom of the authorities’ increasing fear of democratic change and his enduring popularity.
Cambodian authority on October 12 issued a request to airline companies offering flights to the country not to allow the CNRP chief to board planes heading to its airports.
Rainsy, however, told VOA he still planned to return ahead of the election, without providing details, adding that “eventually nearly everybody” would want to see democratic change.
Since November last year he has lived in France in self-imposed exile after his parliamentary immunity was removed and an arrest warrant issued over a years-old defamation ruling that could see him spend two years behind bars.
Sok Eysan, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said Rainsy had “misinterpreted” the government’s actions deliberately to “weaken the ruling party.”
Meas Ny, a political analyst, called for new negotiations to end the tense standoff between the CNRP and CPP.
“I think [the dispute] doesn’t provide any benefits. It’s only a political game between politicians and not in the interests of the nation,” he said.
A senior government official on Monday said the decision to bar Rainsy from entering Cambodia was made over safety concerns that ensuing demonstrations could damage property.
Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reportedly labeled the decision “unjustified and arbitrary.”