Cambodia's opposition leader, whose party is disputing its narrow loss in last month's elections, said yesterday his supporters would take to the streets only as a last resort if their complaints of poll irregularities were not resolved fairly.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy returned home yesterday after a week-long visit to the United States to lead the party's challenge in the country's political stand-off, which many fear may lead to violent confrontations.
He said at Phnom Penh's airport that he expected Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow an impartial, independent committee to probe allegations of widespread fraud by the ruling party during the July 28 elections. "Because, nobody would recognise any government stemming from fake elections," he said.
In a Facebook message shortly before his return, he said that he would "immediately take part in the effort on the spot to find a peaceful solution to the political crisis arising from unprecedented and inacceptable irregularities".
The official election results support the claim of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party to have won 68 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, against 55 for Sam Rainsy's party. The opposition claims to have actually won 63, even though the official number represents a substantial gain on the 29 seats it held in the last assembly.
The opposition has threatened to hold a massive demonstration if its demands for an investigation are not met.
Asked whether his party would carry out its threat, Sam Rainsy said it had to be ready to do so but "as a last resort".
The government has responded to the opposition threats by deploying troops and armoured vehicles in the capital.
Hun Sen, Cambodia's leader for 28 years, has a reputation for dealing harshly with his opponents.
Ratification of the results will not take place until sometime before September 8, after the government-appointed National Election Committee has dealt with 17 formal complaints.
"The whole world knows that CNRP won the election and the whole world will help CNRP to expose the truth - the truth is that CNRP won the election," Sam Rainsy said upon arrival at the airport, where he was greeted by about 300 supporters.
Sam Rainsy had spent about a week in the United States to attend his daughter's wedding.
He said that he had also met senior American and UN officials in New York.
His party has called for the UN to play a role in the election scrutiny body.