Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is on a tour of North America to build support for his party ahead of commune elections.
Speaking by phone from Montreal, Canada, where he celebrated the New Year, the exiled leader said Cambodian officials must allow him to return for elections, or face the prospect of an illegitimate national election next year.
“This kind of voting, without the presence of the main opposition party president, who is the only rival facing the Cambodian People’s Party at this time, the international community does not recognize this process,” he said. “And the government that results form this rigged vote will face crisis and unrest.”
Sam Rainsy has been in exile since October 2009, when he was charged with racial incitement and other crimes for ripping out markers at the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province and later posting a border map online the government said was fraudulent.
Sam Rainsy has maintained that the charges against him are political, but he has not been able to broker a return.
He visited the US in March and April to meet with Cambodian communities, as well as United Nations and US officials and members of congress, he said. Many officials have called for a change to election laws, he said, but the government has not reformed them.
Meanwhile, the party is gearing up for commune elections in June and national elections next year.
Cambodians in the US and Canada “have provided a lot of support and money,” he said. Funding committees have been set up across both nations, he said.