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Cambodian Government Claims Victory Over “Failed” Return Of Exiled CNRP Leaders

FILE: Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media outside Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The government has characterised the opposition’s return as an alleged coup.

The Cambodian government on Wednesday said it had been successful in preventing an alleged coup attempt by exiled opposition leaders, who were slated to return to Cambodia on November 9.

Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders, led by Sam Rainsy, had promised to return to the country on Independence Day, which falls on November 9, but have been blocked by Cambodia’s ASEAN neighbours. The government has characterised the opposition’s return as an alleged coup.

Thailand has said it will prevent the CNRP leaders from using its borders to enter Cambodia, blocking Mu Sochua from entering Bangkok last week.

CNRP leaders have been camped in Malaysia and have said they will remain in the region, though some reports suggest Sam Rainsy may have been prevented from entering Indonesia on Wednesday. However, Mu Sochua on Thursday morning posted on Twitter that Sam Rainsy had eventually reached Jakarta.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong said that the government blockade on the CNRP leaders had worked and was successful in preventing the allegeld coup.

“According to the plan, they vowed to overthrow the government by coming to Cambodia to lead a peoples’ uprising on November 9,” he said. “But all the planned activities were completely unsuccessful.”

In anticipation of the return, the Cambodian government had deployed heavy security presence across the country, especially at Poipet, along the border with Thailand. The CNRP planned to return via the land border, but were never able to make it Thailand after the Cambodian government asked that they be blocked.

Kuy Kuong added that the Cambodian government had sent letters to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, three countries who had an extradition treaty with Cambodia, to send Sam Rainsy's team back to Cambodia.

The exiled CNRP leaders look set to camp in Jakarta for the next few days, though their presence there earlier this month resulted in some diplomatic issues. Mu Sochua was addressing a press conference in Jakarta when Cambodian ambassador to Indonesia, Hor Nam Bora, stormed the event demanding it be stopped because Mu Sochua was a wanted individual in Cambodia.

CNRP leader Eng Chhai Eang said that Sam Rainsy and his colleagues were ready to return to Cambodia, but have been consistently blocked by the Cambodian government.

He considered the reluctance of ASEAN member states to arrest CNRP leaders as a signal to Cambodia that its diplomatic tactics were not working.

“Therefore, only the Hun Sen regime has failed miserably on its diplomatic policy. It shows that the Hun Sen regime fears the truth,” he said.

Eng Chhai Eang added that Sam Rainsy and his colleagues would continue to meet with leaders in other ASEAN countries, and discuss democratic issues in Cambodia and to determine another attempted return to Cambodia.