Follow VOA Khmer's live blog: Cambodia's Opposition Returns
PHNOM PENH — Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday again threatened Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters to stay away from opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s planned return to Cambodia, threatening further arrests for anyone assisting the exiled leader.
The prime minster was speaking at a development strategy event in Phnom Penh and even mocked Sam Rainsy, saying he was too cowardly to return to Cambodia.
“On the day of November 9, this person will be in Paris. On what authority will he come to arrest Hun Sen here?” Hun Sen said, referring to Sam Rainsy.
Sam Rainsy on Thursday was prevented from boarding a Thai Airways flight from Paris to Bangkok. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this week said that Thailand would not allow Sam Rainsy to use the country to enter Cambodia.
Opposition leaders have said they plan to enter Cambodia using a Thailand-Cambodia border crossing on November 9. Attempting to get to Bangkok, opposition leader Mu Sochua and two youth activists were detained in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and only released late Thursday evening.
Back in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen warned that authorities will continue to arrest opposition supporters if they don’t abandon their plans to support Sam Rainsy’s return.
The government has charged at least 40 opposition supporters and detained, questioned more than 100 people, many made to confess to being part of an alleged coup plot in return for leniency.
“Those who collude will be punished,” Hun Sen said. “Let’s speak clear about this. Please come out and offer a sincere confession because many have come out to confess in the last few days. If you don’t come out, you will be hunted down and arrested.”
Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment via WhatsApp, but he did tell French media that he will again attempt to reach Thailand using a different airline.
US-based rights group Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Thursday, calling for the Cambodian government to permit the return of opposition leaders to Cambodia and resume their political activities.
“It’s ridiculous that the Cambodian government is treating a political party that has always engaged in nonviolence as a military threat,” Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“The government should immediately end this harassment campaign against the political opposition, drop all politically motivated charges, and unconditionally release those wrongfully held,” he added.