11/08/2019, 09.30
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Sam Rainsy, Hun Sen opponent, blocked at Paris airport

The leader of the opposition party wanted to return home from self-imposed exile to lead demonstrations against the prime minister.  Thai Airways, the Thai national airline, refused to let him board.  Phnom Penh urges the nations of Southeast Asia to treat CNRP politicians as fugitives.  The Malaysian government backtracks and orders the release of Mu Sochua, vice president of the party.



Paris (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Sam Rainsy (photo), the self-exiled leader of the Cambodian opposition had promised to return home tomorrow to conduct demonstrations against the regime;  today he reports that he was prevented from embarking on a flight from Paris to Bangkok yesterday.  The ban follows one day after the arrest by the Malaysian authorities of Mu Sochua, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), political group led by Rainsy and dissolved by the Supreme Court of Phnom Penh in 2017.

In power since 1985, the Cambodian prime minister described the demonstrations planned by Rainsy and his supporters as a coup attempt.  The premier said that Rainsy would be arrested if he tried to enter the country.  Phnom Penh has asked neighboring states to prevent him from passing through ther terrirtory and advised airlines not to accept him as a passenger.

Sam Rainsy reported that at the French airport Charles de Gaulle, the staff of Thai Airways, the Thai national airline, refused to let him on board.  "[The staff of Thai Airways] told me that they had received orders from very high up," he said.  "I'm really shocked, disappointed.  I want to go home, my people are waiting for me. "

The CNRP leader said in a live social media video that he and other party leaders did not change plans for their return;  he urged his supporters not to be disappointed and accused Hun Sen of being frightened of the possibility of his repatriation.  Rainsy has promised to find another flight to return to Cambodia.

Rainsy has been living in voluntary exile in Paris for four years, to escape a series of accusations that he claims to be politically motivated.  Last August, the politician announced that he would return to his homeland together with senior members of the CNRP on November 9, the 66th anniversary of Cambodian independence from France;  he has promised that he will lead the "restoration of democracy" in the country, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled for 34 years.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government has backtracked and ordered the release of Mu Sochua.  The security forces blocked the woman in the capital's airport, and then released her 24 hours later.  Previously, Kuala Lumpur claimed that it was trying to deport the woman following Phnom Penh's request that Southeast Asian nations treat CNRP politicians as fugitives.

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