World Bulletin / News Desk
In a statement, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Brad Adams said the Oct. 12 directive from the immigration department -- which bans airlines from bringing Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy to Cambodia -- flouts both the country’s own constitution and international human rights law.
“The official exile of opposition leader Sam Rainsy is just the latest effort by Cambodia’s ruling party to win the next national elections -- by ensuring they have no real competition,” Adams said, adding that donors should call on Prime Minister Hun Sen to “end his political persecution of the opposition”.
Rainsy went into self-imposed exile a year ago, after a years-old defamation case was reignited and he was sentenced to two years in prison.
He and his party’s standing committee decided at the time that it would be best for him to remain overseas.
But in the past few weeks, his deputy Kem Sokha -- also in hiding to avoid arrest on a separate case -- has said he would like Rainsy to come back.
Rainsy said he would face the prison sentence on the condition that he is swapped with nearly 20 imprisoned party officials and human rights activists -- a suggestion the government has shot down.
HRW said Wednesday that the forced exile directly flouts Article 33 of the constitution, which prohibits the exile of Khmer citizens.
The constitution was drawn up as a result of the Paris Peace Accords, which were signed in October 1991 and ended decades of conflict in Cambodia.
But Adams said Wednesday there are few signs that the basic tenets of that agreement are being honored and that Hun Sen “seems intent on reversing all the gains of the last 25 years”.
“The actions against Sam Rainsy again expose Hun Sen’s intention to return Cambodia to a de facto one-party state, with little room for critical or opposition voices,” he said.
Calls to Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan and interior ministry spokesman general Khieu Sopheak were unsuccessful Wednesday.