Opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia on Monday for the first time since the CPP and Funcinpec pushed through a widely criticized constitutional addition to establish the new government.
During Sam Rainsy’s trip to Europe and the US, Prime Minister Hun Sen accused opposition party activists of recruiting their own armed force. Sam Rainsy told reporters Monday that rebuttals of those accusations by rights groups and several US senators had succeeded and the threat to democracy was over.
“The attempt to hamper the Sam Rainsy Party activists is a failure,” he said. “I believe it failed because the international community, and especially the US, has threatened and warned those who made attempts against us. They are finished now.”
He also said that he met with US Democratic Party presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry last week. Sam Rainsy said that Kerry, who negotiated with Hun Sen’s government in 2000 for the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal, put no stock in the premier’s allegations.
“What the international community and human rights organizations think is that Hun Sen’s government wants to silence the opposition party,” Sam Rainsy said.
But CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday: “The government is still charging those people whose names are in the illegal armed force structure.”
That structure is a “shadow ministry” of defense, established publicly in 2001 to report on the improprieties of RCAF and related government departments.
Government officials have charged that the structure, which is organized by military regions like RCAF, indicates revolutionary designs. “My question is whether John Kerry dares to put in his national platform that opposition parties in developed countries have the right to form armed forces,” Khieu Kanharith said.
The day before Kerry’s speech, the National Democratic Institute issued a statement of concern over Hun Sen’s accusations. Signed by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the statement called on Cambodia to “affirm its commitment to respect the political rights and protect the personal security of political leaders.”
Traditionally, the opposition party has received its strongest support from US Republicans.
“Democracy in Cambodia enjoys bi-partisan support in the US,” Sam Rainsy said Monday, adding that he had thanked leaders of both political parties. “We do not take sides in American politics.”