The opposition leader says he is going to return from exile on 9 November, urges soldiers to defect, and promises to lead the "restoration of democracy" in the country. The government reiterates that planning a coup d'état involves a sentence of 15 to 30 years.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Cambodian government will meet out severe penalties to anyone who intends to take part in a "coup d'état" organised by Sam Rainsy (pictured), "acting president" of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), an opposition party dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017.
Rainsy, who lives in voluntary exile in Paris, fled after a series of charges were laid against him, which he claims were politically motivated.
The politician announced that he will return home together with high-ranking members of the CNRP on 9 November, the 66th anniversary of Cambodian independence from France. He has promised that he will lead the "restoration of democracy" in the country, which has been ruled by Prime Minister Hun Sen for 34 years.
In a statement three days ago, Cambodian Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that Rainsy's return was part of a "coup", adding that a coup d'état is punished with 15 to 30 years in prison.
Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on Sunday that legal action would be taken against any civil servant or individual who participated in such a plot.
“This carries a punishment of between five and 10 years in prison. The penalty increases to between 10 and 20 years if the perpetrator is a civil servant,” said the Justice Ministry.
The Ministry's statements came a few days after the opposition leader issued an appeal on social media, calling on ordinary Cambodians and members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to support his cause.
Rainsy said that the CNRP has prepared a budget for the soldiers who defected upon his return. “Withdraw from the treacherous, dictatorial regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen and participate with citizens standing up to demand freedom, justice and democracy under the leadership of the CNRP from November 9,” Rainsy said.
Four days ago, in an interview with Radio Free Asia, Rainsy launched a harsh attack against China, the main ally of the Hun Sen regime.
A new CNRP-led government, he said he will “kick out the Chinese and refuse Beijing permission to use Cambodia as its military base.”
“Hun Sen is working with China and China is expanding its influence and invading other countries, but when we return to a true democracy, we will regain our integrity,” he added.