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Cambodian opposition says founder to end exile in November

FILE - Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy of the Cambodia National Rescue Party delivers a speech before his party supporters during a rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.

Cambodia’s popular but disbanded opposition party says its self-exiled co-founder will make his long-promised return to the country in early November.

The Cambodian National Rescue Party, dissolved by court order in November 2017, announced Friday that Sam Rainsy and other party leaders will return to Cambodia on Nov. 9.

Sam Rainsy has been in exile since late 2015 to avoid a two-year prison sentence for criminal defamation. Other legal cases have since been lodged against him by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, his bitter enemy, who has held power for more than three decades.

Other top party members fled into exile during a late 2017 crackdown on all opposition to Hun Sen. The party had been expected to mount a strong challenge in the July 2018 general election.