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Sam Rainsy Travels to Indonesia, But Reports Suggest He Was Initially Denied Entry

Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

The opposition leader said that he had missed the flight, however, not suggesting that he faced any immigration restrictions.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy reached Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday morning, with media reports suggesting that he was initially denied entry into the country.

Sam Rainsy and other CNRP leaders have been camped in Malaysia for the last few days after they were prevented from entering Cambodia, missing a November 9 deadline set by exiled leaders of the party. They have been prevented from entering Thailand, which has heeded Phnom Penh requests to block their entry.

Last week, Sam Rainsy was prevented from boarding a Thai Airlines fight to Bangkok and had to instead travel to Malaysia to join his colleagues. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Sam Rainsy had again been prevented from boarding a flight, this time to Jakarta.

“Malaysia Airlines denied boarding of the said passenger under the instruction of the Indonesian authorities,” according to the Reuters report.

However, opposition leader Mu Sochua confirmed that Sam Rainsy had reached Indonesia on Thursday morning, a day after he was scheduled to arrive.

“Mr. Rainsy safely arrived in Jakarta,” she told VOA Khmer on Thursday. “We are democrats and we have to try to bind friendship among each other, especially democrats in ASEAN for democracy.”

While reports suggested that Sam Rainsy was prevented from boarding the flight on Wednesday, the opposition leader said that he had missed the flight, however, not suggesting that he faced any immigration restrictions.

“I missed my flight from Kuala Lumpur this afternoon but will catch another flight tomorrow morning for Jakarta. Will arrive at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 10:10 am by flight MH711,” he posted on his Twitter on Wednesday.

Indonesian immigration officials have not confirmed if Sam Rainsy was prevented from travelling to the country, and the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh told VOA Khmer it had not received any instructions from its government regarding Sam Rainsy.

Even though the Cambodian government has maintained it will arrest the exiled CNRP leaders on arrival, and asked that its ASEAN neighbors arrest and deport them, the civil aviation authority last week prevented any airlines from allowing the exiled leaders to fly into Cambodia.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said that Sam Rainsy was traveling across ASEAN as a “rebel tourist” and had failed in his attempt to return to Cambodia.

“I think [Rainsy] is just a rebel tourist,” he said. “His activity is just a failed attempt to draw attention from the press.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said that Indonesia eventually decided to respect the opposition’s human rights, rather than heed Phnom Penh’s request.

“As one of the few ASEAN member states that upholds democratic principles in practice, Indonesia obviously wants to hear what Sam Rainsy and his CNRP colleagues have to say, and it is a positive development that Indonesia let them into the country. Too bad that Thailand, Vietnam and Laos don’t share those democratic principles,” he said in an email.