Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An, who was at the fore of the CNRP’s efforts earlier this year to reveal Vietnamese encroachments into Cambodia, said on Monday that he had entered self-imposed exile along with opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Mr. Sam An had previously said that he would return from a fact-finding mission to the U.S. and European Union to collect border maps by the end of November. But he said on Monday from the U.S. that he had delayed his return until the present political strife died down.
“I was initially scheduled to come back to Cambodia in November, but I cannot come back as scheduled due to recent extreme political tension—even CNRP leader Sam Rainsy is not able to come back to the country,” he said.
“As soon as CNRP leader Sam Rainsy can return to Cambodia, I will return as soon as possible.”
Despite previously saying that he did not fear arrest upon his return, Mr. Sam An said that the likelihood of going to jail factored into his decision to remain abroad.
“As we all know, anyone who criticizes the border issue faces many challenges; especially, we can face imprisonment. Meanwhile, outside the country I can talk freely about the border issue,” he said.
In August, after months of CNRP criticism over the government’s work demarcating its eastern frontier, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to arrest individuals who said the CPP had been using illegal maps. Mr. Sam An has ignored the threat, continuing to claim that the government has violated the Constitution by using the wrong maps.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Monday that it would be up to the courts to decide whether to prosecute Mr. Sam An if he returned to the country, but suggested that he was guilty of defamation.
“There are two different types of criticism here: One is constructive criticism and the other one has characteristics of defamation,” he said.
“He used to accuse the government of using fake maps. This is not called constructive criticism, it is called defamation.”
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