WASHINGTON DC - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is in Brussels to lobby members of the European Union’s parliament to help him return to Cambodia for July’s national elections.
Sam Rainsy remains in exile, facing a raft of criminal charges he says are politically motivated. Outside observers say he should be allowed to return to Cambodia to help the opposition contest the election if it is to be considered free and fair.
In Brussels, Sam Rainsy and lawmaker Mu Sochua led a demonstration of about 100 supporters from various European countries, demanding he be allowed to return. The European Union is a major donor to Cambodia, and Sam Rainsy says leaders there should pressure Cambodia to enact electoral reforms and push for his return.
Sam Rainsy has been found guilty of a number of crimes related to the destruction of border markers near Vietnam in 2009. He faces more than 10 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said there can be no political solution to the charges and that Sam Rainsy’s case remains a matter for the courts.
Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer that EU parliamentarians support his return. “But we came this time just to remind them,” he said. “The election date is getting close. Whenever there is heavy pressure from the international community, especially the EU, there is always a political solution.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said outside pressure will not help Sam Rainsy, who should return to Cambodia and face the courts.
Suon Bunsak, executive secretary of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said Cambodian politicians should seek a political deal among each other, without aid from the international community or other outsiders.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s electoral system has come under increased criticism ahead of the July 28 polls. Last week, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections issued a report that said Cambodia has made no significant reforms to a system that favors the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, jeopardizing the legitimacy of the upcoming election.