Cambodia lifts ban on return of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy

Rainsy still faces arrest over an unserved defamation sentence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 11:07pm

The Cambodian government announced Wednesday the lifting of its ban on the return of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has been in living in exile for over a year and a half.

A letter released by the Office of the Council of Ministers said a directive issued by the council on October 12, 2016, banning Rainsy’s entry into the country had been annulled.

The letter was addressed to Neth Savoeun, Cambodia’s national police chief, and Sok Phal, director general of the Department of Immigration.

The 2016 directive ordered the country’s immigration officials to take measures to prevent Rainsy, former leader of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, from returning.

Among the measures, airlines were informed to not allow him to board any plane bound for Cambodia and to prevent him from disembarking if found to be on a plane that landed in the country.

The ban effectively made official the exile of Rainsy, 67, who left the country in November 2015 following the removal of his parliamentary immunity over a warrant issued for his arrest in an old defamation case.

He resigned as leader of the CNRP in February this year to stop attempts to dissolve the party.

However, Sok Ey San, spokesman of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said that despite the lifting of the ban Rainsy still faces arrest over an unserved defamation sentence.

The lifting of the directive comes a day after Rainsy told Radio Free Asia in Washington that local elections held on June 4 were not held freely and fairly as he was prevented by the CPP of Prime Minister Hun Sen from returning to Cambodia to conduct election campaigns.