(From The Phnom Penh Post)
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, currently the subject of an arrest warrant issued Friday, did not arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport Monday night as promised following advice from his party colleagues.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president was due to arrive at from South Korea, where he has been visiting supporters, at 10.20 pm.
Speculation has been rife as to whether Rainsy would return after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Friday issued an arrest warrant asking police to enforce a 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, for which Rainsy was sentenced to two years in prison.
In his Facebook message posted just after 4 pm, Rainsy said he would return in the next few days, citing advice that he should arrive at daytime and allow time for diplomatic intervention for a peaceful resolution to the recent escalation of violence in Cambodia.
As a prelude to his arrest, the government stripped of his lawmaker status and immunity Monday.
The decision was taken after consulting with the Ministry of Justice about Rainsy’s 2011 conviction on defamation and incitement charges, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Chheang Vun said.
On Friday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for the opposition leader stemming from a defamation and incitement case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
Addressing hundreds of Cambodians in South Korea on Saturday, Rainsy said he would return to Cambodia despite the warrant.
“Cambodia is my homeland – I absolutely must go back and go to rescue our nation. So there is no change in my plan. If I must die, let it be”, he said.
Friday’s warrant came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen posted a video on Facebook threatening Rainsy with legal action following comments by the opposition leader that the success of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party in Myanmar foreshadowed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s own downfall in the 2018 national election.
In posts on his Facebook page over the weekend, Rainsy continued to draw comparisons between the two countries.
“The most recent developments in Cambodia, including the arrest warrant against me as opposition leader, show that the historic resounding election victory of the democratic opposition in Myanmar has created panic among the last surviving dictators in our part of the world.
“But the wind of freedom that is blowing throughout the world will also reach Cambodia in the very near future,” he wrote on Saturday.