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Despite Prospect of Arrest, Sam Rainsy Prepares for Return

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, left, who is currently living in exile in France, file photo.
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, left, who is currently living in exile in France, file photo.
WASHINGTON DC - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says there’s no better chance to change the government than now, which is why he is willing to risk a return to Cambodia.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Sam Rainsy says he has made a personal decision, based on the increased support he has seen for the opposition in recent months.

“This is an important opportunity to decide the life or death of our country,” he said. “Such a chance comes only once in our lifetime. I don’t want to miss the chance to rescue our nation.”

Sam Rainsy is facing a raft of charges he says are politically motivated and faces more than 10 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia. Many Western observers say his participation in the upcoming election would improve its legitimacy. However, ruling party officials say his case remains a matter for the courts, and Cambodian authorities say he will be arrested if he returns.

“I’m not that important, and my decision to return is based on high national interest, the people’s interest, and the future of our children,” Sam Rainsy said. “Therefore, I dare sacrifice everything. I want nothing for myself, not even my life. I’d rather die to make sure my nation survives eternally.”

Sam Rainsy said he holds out hope that King Norodom Sihamoni will provide him a pardon, but with or without it, he will return ahead of Election Day.

“I believe in my good deeds,” he said. “I believe in justice. I trust the king, because he represents our nation, so if I did nothing wrong but protect our land, protect our national interest, I believe that in the end the king will act at his father’s advice to love the nation and promote national unity and forgiveness.”

He is now organizing his work so that people can carry on with it if he’s “away” for a long time, he said.

Sam Rainsy is currently the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and is seconded by Kem Sokha, the vice president, who is campaigning in Cambodia. The two joined their parties earlier this year in hopes of winning the July 28 elections.

“I would like to appeal to all people, no matter which party you’re in or used to support, please be united now,” Sam Rainsy said.

Meanwhile, Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando, who spent eight months in jail on charges he says were similarly political, has officially endorsed the Cambodia National Rescue Party and is appealing to his own supporters to vote for the opposition.

“Our members have unanimously agreed to support CNRP,” said Mam Sonando, who is also the head of the Association of Democrats. “If this regime continues, I will be dead or imprisoned. Kem Sokha will also be imprisoned or dead, and so will Sam Rainsy.”