Opposition Carries On Without Sam Rainsy

The Feb 3 National Assembly vote that stripped opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his immunity and prompted him to flee Cambodia may have drawn widespread criticism, but it also heralded new opportunities within his party, opposition lawmaker Yim So­vann said Tuesday.

With Sam Rainsy absent, other party members have been given the chance to build their political re­putations in a party traditionally dominated by its leader, he said.

“Everyone has [previously] seen the Sam Rainsy Party as a one-man show,” Yim Sovann said. “Even if Sam Rainsy is out of the country, we can still do our job. We are doing very well.”

Although Sam Rainsy issues in­structions from abroad, acting par­ty president Kong Korm, Secre­tary-General Eng Chhay Eang and Yim Sovann are managing the par­ty on the ground, Yim Sovann said.

This involves managing party leaders in the provinces and buil­d­ing grass roots support, he said.

Without giving exact dates, op­position officials have repeatedly said that Sam Rainsy will return soon.

No arrest warrant has been is­sued for Sam Rainsy, Prime Min­ister Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yen­tieng said Tuesday.

“He can buy an air ticket to re­turn whenever he wishes,” Om Yen­tieng said. “He is afraid of his own shadow.”

Yim Sovann said he was unconvinced. “[The ruling parties] can do anything they want,” he said.

Though Sam Rainsy has repeat­ed­ly compared Cambodia to Bur­ma, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house ar­­rest by the government she op­poses, while Sam Rainsy chose to leave the country, Om Yentieng said.

“In Cambodia there is no Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

Sam Rainsy’s exit from the country may not have been heroic, but it was ultimately sensible, Tek Tol, an opposition party supporter and laborer in Phnom Penh, said on Tuesday.

“If he stayed here they would have made trouble for him,” he said.

San Rithy Duong Hak, cabinet chief for the opposition party, said he was hopeful that Sam Rainsy will return this year.

Lobbying for support in the West, as Sam Rainsy has been doing, is not particularly useful, one foreign diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Western countries generally have limited interest in Cambodia and little influence over the government, the diplomat said.

“He should just come back to face the charges, which I believe he will do if he wants a political fu­ture in Cambodia,” the diplomat said.

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