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Sam Rainsy Warns of Delegitimized Elections

Sam Rainsy party supporters greet onlookers at a busy market during an election rally in the capital Phnom Penh, in 2008.

Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy now says a political solution must be found for his return ahead of 2012 elections if the polls are to be internationally recognized as free and fair.

Sam Rainsy is facing 12 years in prison sentences on charges stemming from the destruction of markers on the Vietnamese border last year and the publishing of a map alleging Vietnamese encroachment.

Cambodia is preparing for local commune elections in 2012 and national parliamentary elections in 2013. But Prime Minister Hun Sen has so far ruled out any political solution to Sam Rainsy’s charges.

Sam Rainsy, whose eponymous party holds 26 of 123 parliamentary seats, has maintained that the charges against him are political in nature and that his trials were conducted by a court that is widely considered politically biased and corrupt.

“If they prevent me…from running in the elections, then the election will be a sham,” Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer from France. “A government that comes from such a result…will not be recognized by anyone and will cause Cambodia to face severe crises in the future.”

Cheam Yiep, a parliamentarian for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Cambodia would conduct its elections separately from Sam Rainsy’s legal situation.

“I’m not frightened of whether the international community recognizes [the election] or not,” he said.

As for Sam Rainsy, he said, “the court will make the decision.”

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said an opposition was necessary to compete in healthy elections.

“In this issue, there needs to be a political resolution to allow [Sam Rainsy] to come and compete, in order for observers to know that the democratic and pluralistic process is moving on the right track,” he said. “This is very important.”