The Latest: Cambodian opposition leader blocked in Paris
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The Latest on the attempted return of opposition politicians to Cambodia (all times local:
Cambodia’s most prominent opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, says he was not allowed to board a Thai Airways flight from Paris to Bangkok in his attempt to return home from self-imposed exile to challenge his country’s longtime leader.
Sam Rainsy told reporters on Thursday at Charles De Gaulle Airport that the Thai flag carrier “said they had received from very high up the instruction to not allow me to board.”
Sam Rainsy, who has been living in France, says he’s ready to risk imprisonment or death by returning to Cambodia to unseat Prime Minister Hun Sen, an autocratic leader who has clamped down on opposition.
He said his travel has been blocked by “Hun Sen, the Cambodian dictator who has asked to put pressure on neighbouring countries to block my return to Cambodia.”
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia doesn’t want to be used as a base for political activists from the region, after the No. 2 official of a banned Cambodian opposition party was detained at the airport as she and other exiles planned a return to their homeland in a challenge to an autocratic leader.
Mahathir’s stand mirrored that of Thailand, which this week also barred the Cambodian opposition officials from transiting through the country. They said they want to spark a popular movement to oust long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has clamped down on his opponents.
Cambodian officials have repeatedly warned that if the opposition leaders did make it back, they would immediately be arrested. Most if not all have convictions or charges pending against them, including inciting armed rebellion despite their avowedly nonviolent intentions.