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Cambodia Orders Arrest of Exiled Former Opposition Leader Upon Return


Cambodia's self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Friday, April 13, 2018. Rainsy urged Japan, his nation's biggest donor, to use its leverage and convince the autocratic government to make sure that the July election is democratic. (AP

Sam Rainsy left Cambodia in 2016 facing a number of lawsuits filed by senior officials.

Immigration officials have been ordered to arrest Sam Rainsy, the former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, if he follows through on pledges to return to the country.

Rainsy faces charges of treason linked to questionable allegations that he and the CNRP’s president, Kem Sokha, conspired with the United States to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen. Sokha was jailed in September 2017 on the same charge.

In a letter to officials last week, Kirth Chantharith, the immigration department director, ordered officials to secure international border checkpoints in the event that Rainsy attempted to enter the country unannounced.

Rainsy left Cambodia in 2016 facing a number of lawsuits filed by senior officials.

In a video posted to his Facebook page, he told supporters in the United States that this year presented a “golden opportunity” for an opposition revival.

The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court two months after Sokha’s arrest in 2017.

Mu Sochua, CNRP vice president, said in a letter to the European Union this week that threats against people affiliated with the CNRP were continuing.

“We reiterate our support for discussions between the Hun Sen regime and the international community to bring democracy back on track. Sam Rainsy and all opposition members in exile will return to Cambodia to find solutions for national reconciliation and to defend democratic principles and liberal values.”

The EU, Cambodia's biggest export market, is considering removing preferential trade rules on Cambodia over the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s poor record on human rights and democracy.

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