Opposition Chief Sam Rainsy Vows To Lead 2 Million Cambodians Home in November

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samrainsy.jpg Cambodia National Rescue Party acting president Sam Rainsy speaks at a conference In Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 2, 2018.

Acting President Sam Rainsy of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) vowed on Monday to lead two million migrant workers from his country toiling in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and other countries home when he returns from exile in November

“Let return to take back our homes, our land and our country from Hun Sen. Don’t’ let him rob them from us,” Sam Rainsy told a rally of CNRP supporters in Australia.

“I will lead [our] brothers--two million workers from Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Japan--who are forced to work in foreign countries. Let’s go back to our home,” he said.

The CNRP on Friday announced that Sam Rainsy and several other high-ranking party officials will return to Cambodia from exile on Nov. 9 to coincide with the 66th anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France, despite threats by Prime Minister Hun Sen to imprison them.

“I appeal to all armed forces -- brothers, sons and nephews -- not to listen to dictators, don’t take orders from dictators to kill our own people,” Sam Rainsy said at Monday’s rally.

“Instead, you have to stand alongside with our people and protect them.”

Sam Rainsy left Cambodia in late 2015 to avoid what are seen as politically motivated convictions on defamation and other charges, but has continued to actively shepherd the CNRP in exile.

In early June, he announced that he had agreed to return to the country by September, following a decision by fellow party executives to go home to restore democracy in the authoritarian Southeast Asian country.

Sam Rainsy did not address the logistics of leading home two million migrant workers from Thailand and other Asian countries.

Most Cambodian migrant workers are in Thailand, where NGOs estimate that more than  million reside while the Cambodian Labor Ministry puts the figure at 1.6 million.

But CNRP supporters in Thailand and Japan said they and their fellow party members were ready to go back to Cambodia with him.

“They are ready and were inspired when they learned the date set for returning home with acting President Sam Rainsy,” said a CNRP’ representative in Thailand, Ly Rattanak Reaksmey.

“Youth and migrant workers in Japan are ready to join the repatriation with Sam Rainsy, said Hay Vanna, a CNRP youth leader in Japan.

“They are ready to join acting President Sam Rainsy to restore democracy and save economy for our people,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Hun Sen crackdown

Authorities arrested CNRP President Kem Sokha in September 2017, and Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 of its elected officials from politics two months later for its alleged role in a plot to overthrow the government.

The moves were part of a wider crackdown by Hun Sen on the political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media that paved the way for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.

The CNRP’s announcement of Sam Rainsy’s planned return came after top-ranking officials with Cambodia’s security forces said they were arranging the deployment of authorities to all border checkpoints in anticipation of the acting party president and other senior opposition leaders in exile, with orders to arrest them and escort them to jail.

CNRP supporters, and activists across Cambodia and overseas, are backing Sam Rainsy’s return, and many have said they will escort his entry into the country, despite threats from the government that anyone who assists him will also face arrest.

On Saturday, Nuth Pich became the 15th CNRP activist detained in 2019 by Hun Sen government for having joined gatherings conveying support for Sam Rainsy’s return, his son told RFA.

Nuth Pich, 64, was an elected CNRP councilor and deputy head of party operations for Kampot province’s Chhouk district. He quit his political activities to pursue his farming business following the dissolution of the CNRP, after which he was forced to defect to the ruling party.

Kampot provincial authorities arrested him while he was transplanting rice seedlings in a middle of a rice field on Saturday. He was later charged for violating the Supreme Court verdict that dissolved the CNRP and of incitement to commit crimes, his son said.

“As of now, I have yet to bee allowed to meet with my father inside the prison. The prison warden told that they are yet to set the date for our visit,” said Nuth Pich’s son, Sun Theany.

“Five police officers came to arrest him, then handcuffed him and escorted him to the jail facility in bare feet, without letting him wear any sandals,” he told RFA.

“They shaved his head the following day. It was so painful for him when I saw his face,” added Sun Theany.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sum Sok-Ry and Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.


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