Cambodian Opposition Leader Visits Washington


2005-02-11
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11 February 2005. Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy sits for an interview in Radio Free Asia's Washington studios. Photo: RFA

PARIS—Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has challenged Prime Minister Hun Sen to make public the charges against him, a day after he fled the country following a vote to strip him and two other MPs of immunity from prosecution.

"I dare them to show the dossier, the case against me," Sam Rainsy said in an interview with RFA’s Khmer service in Paris.

"When they do that, I will decide whether I will go to have such a tribunal try me. But before I go back, this tribunal must have all the documents with which to charge me available first. I believe that no one would believe the dossier in the possession of this tribunal. It can only make the international community spurn the current Cambodian tribunal and government even more," he said.

'Justice will prevail'

"I will return to Cambodia when the tribunal summons me, but I should be informed of the purposes of the summons. The reasons for summoning me should be clearly detailed in writing," he said.

"They must be reasonable and must prepare a clear-cut case against me so that I can prepare my defense. Since they haven’t done this, I deem it unnecessary to wait for the court in Cambodia. This is just a waste of time that I would rather use for my work on the international stage."

I dare them to show the dossier, the case against me. When they do that, I will decide whether I will go to have such a tribunal try me. But before I go back, this tribunal must have all the documents with which to charge me available first... They must be reasonable and prepare a clear-cut case against me so I can prepare my defense.

"My belief is that in the end justice will prevail. I am now defending justice," sam Rainsy said "I do not have any personal scores to set in the political arena of Cambodia. It is my crusade to render justice to the Cambodian people... I believe that in the end the force of justice will triumph."

Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia on Feb. 3 after a vote by government-backed MPs to strip him and two other opposition legislators of their parliamentary immunity.

Cambodian authorities meanwhile moved to arrest one of the other two MPs, Cheam Channy, accusing him of masterminding an armed coup to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen. A third MP, Chea Poch, who also belongs to the pro-democracy Sam Rainsy Party, has gone into hiding.

International outcry

The three were stripped of immunity to prosecution for allegations made in the privileged setting of the country's parliament. The parliament is dominated by Hun Sen's government and its political allies.

Rights groups and U.S. officials condemned the move to strip the MPs of their immunity as a setback for democracy in Cambodia, whose fledgling parliamentary system has been blighted by nearly two years of violence, intimidation, and backroom deals.

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the Bush administration condemned the suspension of the MPs' immunity and noted with concern the subsequent arrest of Cheam Channy.

"We see these actions coming at a time of growing intimidation of opposition voices in Cambodia," Ereli said.

He urged the Cambodian government leadership the "to allow all its citizens to peacefully express their political views without fear of retribution of intimidation."

Sam Rainsy to meet with Western officials

Sam Rainsy, who holds French citizenship, has filed a lawsuit accusing Hun Sen of masterminding a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that killed at least 16 people and injured a U.S. citizen.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, leader of the royalist Funcinpec, have "accused me of so many things," Sam Rainsy said.

"But what the [Sam Rainsy Party] MPs and, I believe, the majority of Cambodians have leveled against the current leadership concerning their crimes of homicide and corruption, the National Assembly and the Judiciary did not see at all," he added.

"My main business is to meet with the superpowers, namely the United States and the European Union," he said. "In Europe, I will urgently visit and meet with leaders of France, Germany, and Britain, the three big [powers] of Europe. After my visit in Europe I will travel to the United States."

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