Prime Minister Hun Sen dared Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia on Thursday, saying the opposition leader would come to no harm.
“If the mind is brave, return. Nobody would do anything,” Hun Sen said, but did not name Sam Rainsy directly in a wide-ranging speech at the close of the Ministry of Interior’s annual conference.
Hun Sen also chastised Sam Rainsy for making strong public allegations only to flee the country in their aftermath.
“[When] the words go too far, [you] flee the country,” Hun Sen said, adding that the source of the opposition leader’s current legal problems were his allegations that Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh accepted millions of dollars to join the government.
If the allegations were true, Hun Sen said, he would seek 10 percent commission from the prince’s alleged $50 million payment and use it to refurbish the Interior Ministry.
The National Assembly suspended Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity and that of two of his party members on Feb 3, clearing the way for a defamation lawsuit launched by Funcinpec to proceed against him.
Sam Rainsy fled the country following the Assembly vote but is expected to return in April.
Hun Sen is also suing the opposition leader over allegations related to the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea.
Three prominent business people with close ties to the CPP—Chin Sopheap of Pheapimex, Ung Bun Hauv of AZ Construction and Ly Yong Phat of Hero-King Co—have also filed defamation lawsuits against Sam Rainsy over his allegations that they bribed Prince Ranariddh.
Opposition Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said on Thursday that Sam Rainsy would not be afraid to return and face trial if the courts were independent, but they are not.
“Now the court proceeds with only the CPP and Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s lawsuits against the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said.
Hun Sen also warned Thursday that police, military, court and government officials will be punished if they are caught conspiring with those who run the sex trade.
Hun Sen said he has heard of two cases in Phnom Penh and four in Kompong Speu in which brothel owners were arrested for refusing to pay police bribes.
Police will be sent to court, he warned, while court officials will face the Supreme Council of Magistracy. Even ministers, he said, are not above the law.
“Regardless if you are wearing star ranks, even a moon, you will be removed,” he said, referring to generals who wear stars to signify their rank.
“Police, army and provincial and municipal governors are no problem because they don’t have immunity,” he added.
Chea Vuth, deputy police chief of Kompong Speu province, denied Thursday that his provincial forces were involved in taking bribes from brothels. The brothel raids Hun Sen referred to were conducted by the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection units, Chea Vuth said.
Un Sokunthea, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-trafficking unit, could not be reached for comment Thursday.