In self-imposed exile, Cambodia’s opposition leader makes bid to return home

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy plans to return to Cambodia today after two years of self-imposed exile in France. Prime

sam rainsy

Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy plans to return to Cambodia today after two years of self-imposed exile in France.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused Rainsy of planning a coup because Rainsy has called for demonstrations against the government. In response, the government is expected to deploy security forces to deter anti-government demonstrations.

Indeed, there is a chance that Rainsy might not even enter Cambodia; the PM has called on neighbouring ASEAN states to help enforce his crackdown on the opposition. The vice president of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and two other party leaders were arrested in Malaysia last month on charges of treason. Rainsy himself was stopped by Thai authorities on a flight from Paris to Bangkok on November 7.

Hun Sen has used a number of formal governmental institutions, like Cambodia’s Supreme Court, to delegitimise the opposition. This was exemplified by the Supreme Court ruling to dissolve the CNRP and by Sen winning every seat in last year’s parliamentary election.

It is unlikely that any meaningful protest will materialise, given Sen’s use of military forces in recent days, as troops have been deployed in major cities and along Cambodia’s borders.

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