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Government Rejects Sam Rainsy Letter Seeking Return

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, left, who is currently living in exile in France.
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, left, who is currently living in exile in France.
PHNOM PENH - Ruling government officials on Tuesday refused to receive a letter from opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is seeking a political solution to a number of criminal charges he says are politically motivated.

The charges against him are preventing him to return to Cambodia to lead the opposition in elections in July 2013.

Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer he is still planning to visit Cambodia to mourn the passing of former king Norodom Sihanouk, whose body will lie in state for nearly three months.

Sam Rainsy sent a second letter to the government this week, welcoming its decision to reinstate Oct. 23 as a national holiday to mark the anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

The decision, announced Tuesday, marks a turnaround for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, which canceled it as a holiday eight years ago. It was announced on the Seventh Day Ceremony for the passing of Sihanouk, who helped broker the peace accords.

Some observers have said the turnaround could mark progress toward some political settlements in the wake of the former king’s death.

“When I see politicians in Cambodia agreeing and solving problems of the national interest, I am happy,” said Tung Yap, president of the US-based Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy.

Political analyst Lao Monghay said the Paris Peace Accords should be celebrated as a stabilizing force for Cambodia that also protects it from takeovers by other countries.

“In Cambodia’s history, this is lucky, because internationally it ensures that neighboring countries recognize and ensure our sovereignty,” he said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sam Rainsy is not banned from paying his respects to the former king.

However, Sam Rainsy is facing 10 years in prison sentences for crimes related to his destruction of border markers near Vietnam in 2009. Those charges remain a matter for the courts, Khieu Kanharith said.