The exiled leader of Cambodia's main opposition met with supporters in a party congress in Canada over the weekend, saying he would not back down on complaints against the ruling prime minister for crimes against humanity.
Sam Rainsy, whose party holds 26 of 123 National Assembly seats, said he will seek the arrest of Prime Minister Hun Sen for crimes committed during Cambodia's period of civil war, among others.
“We must file complaints to all the courts for the arrest of Hun Sen,” he told some 350 party supporters at the congress in Montreal.
“No need to wait until 2013,” he added, a reference to the date of the next national election. “The sooner the better. And this time I will not back off, brothers and sisters, because I am determined that this time will not be a protest in exchange for my return to Cambodia. I do not want to go back to Cambodia as long as Hun Sen is still destroying the nation and still serving the Vietnamese.”
Sam Rainsy is facing a total 12 years in jail on charges related to continued allegations, including a map on his party website, that the Vietnamese have encroached on Cambodian land. The issues of border encroachment and the government's relationship with Hanoi remain hot-button items for some Cambodians.
Sam Rainsy said he has filed complaints to the courts of the US, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, alleging Hun Sen's collusion in a number of violent incidents in Cambodia's recent history.
Sam Rainsy has charged that Hun Sen was involved in the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally; extrajudicial killings in the 1997 coup over coalition partner Funcinpec; the killings of non-violent demonstrators and monks in 1998; and atrocities against civilians along the border during the civil war in the 1980s.
Officials have denied the premier's involvement in the alleged crimes.
The latter policy “caused hundreds of thousands of Cambodians to die,” Sam Rainsy told the party congress. “That's why we've taken action against Hun Sen, to arrest Hun Sen and convict him by law.”
He likened Hun Sen to Manuel Noriaga, a Panamanian dictator, and Charles Taylor, the ex-president of Liberia who is on international trial for alleged war crimes.
“I believe Hun Sen cannot avoid a fate like that of Noriega and Charles Taylor,” he said to applause.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday Sam Rainsy's charges had no legitimacy and that it was “impossible” for Cambodia to have a dictator. Hun Sen was duly elected, he said.
Sam Rainsy, who has already filed a complaint in New York for the 1997 grenade attack, will travel to the European Union, where he hopes to collect signatures from parliamentarians to reactive the Paris Peace Agreement, thereby calling on its signatories to push harder for human rights, an independent court and other democratic institutions.
“All those countries with obligations vowed in the Paris agreement to ensure Cambodia's independent sovereignty,” he said. “Now where is the independence? Sovereignty? And freedom, where is freedom?”
Ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yiep said the Cambodian People's Party “completely” rejects accusations the country has not followed the peace agreement, citing the National Assembly, institutions of law and order, and democracy.