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Cambodian PM asks Vietnam to extradite Sam Rainsy

Hun Sen says the outlawed opposition leader plans to enter Vietnam disguised as a tourist with a French passport
Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy (right) is seen here arriving at Indonesia’s human rights commission office in Jakarta on Nov. 14, 2019

Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy (right) is seen here arriving at Indonesia’s human rights commission office in Jakarta on Nov. 14, 2019. (Photo: AFP/ UCAN files)

Published: June 07, 2023 10:35 AM GMT
Updated: June 07, 2023 10:54 AM GMT

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says outlawed opposition leader Sam Rainsy is planning to enter Vietnam on a French passport and has asked the government in Hanoi to arrest and extradite him back to Cambodia where he faces life imprisonment.

Sam Rainsy, leader in exile of the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was expelled last week from Malaysia where Hun Sen claimed he was plotting “to cause social chaos” ahead of the July 23 general election.

"He planned to enter Malaysia, but he failed. He also planned to enter Thailand and Vietnam by disguising himself as a tourist using a French passport,” he said on June 5. “So if he dares to enter Vietnam, I would like to ask Vietnam to extradite him to Cambodia.”

Hun Sen has also warned he would welcome Sam Rainsy and his entourage “with BM-21 Grad” rocket launchers if they attempted to cross into Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy has been convicted on a range of charges, including defamation, incitement, and plotting to overthrow Hun Sen’s government in November 2019, when he claimed he would return to Cambodia and lead a popular revolt.

However, that plan was thwarted by airlines which refused to let him board.

Only Hun Sen’s long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) can win the upcoming election. The opposition Candlelight Party (CLP) – forged out of the remnants of the CNRP – was disqualified by the National Election Commission (NEC) and cannot contest the poll.

The CLP won more than 22 percent of the popular vote at last year’s commune elections. Of the remaining 17 parties, seven political outfits are new and have little standing. Among the remainder, none are expected to win any seats given their performance in the elections in 2018.

Most struggled to win around one percent of the overall vote. FUNCINPEC, which once held government, was the best performer but could only muster 5.89 percent of the popular vote, while Hun Sen’s CPP won every seat contested in the 125-seat National Assembly.

The deterioration of democracy in Cambodia has led to a loud chorus of criticism by Western nations and pro-democracy activists, which has upset Hun Sen’s government amid allegations of foreign interference and a myriad of allegations about plots to bring down his CPP.

In response, the government and NEC have embarked on a concerted campaign aimed at encouraging Cambodians to turn out and vote on July 23.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea has also urged authorities to take action against anyone who discourages people from voting, saying this was a crime and could lead to charges of incitement to disrupt public order.

“Dissuading people from voting is a crime that demonstrates that those who organize and carry out the actions are the ones who use the phrase ‘democracy’ as a shield, whereas, in reality, they are the ones who subvert democracy and thwart elections in Cambodia,” he told reporters.

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