Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has urged his party’s supporters in the U.S. not to stage any protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen during his visit to California later this month for a summit with fellow Asean leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama.
The plea follows Mr. Hun Sen’s warning of demonstrations against the opposition CNRP here in Cambodia should his trip to the U.S. be marred by protests against him, like the ones that have met him on past missions abroad.
In a speech on Thursday from Falls Church, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., Mr. Rainsy advised Cambodians in the U.S. to heed the prime minister’s threat.
“Demonstrating at this time is not good,” he told a roomful of supporters.
“The Cambodian National Rescue Party does not support it. If someone still does it or insists on doing it, I don’t know what to do. That person has to count on himself, not on the members of the Cambodian National Rescue Party. The Cambodian National Rescue Party will not recognize those actions,” he said.
“I believe the majority of our Cambodian National Rescue Party members understand the situation—what to do and what not to do—which needs to be clearly understood to reach our goal to rescue our nation peacefully.”
Mr. Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile from Cambodia since November to avoid a two-year jail sentence over a 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, a case the CNRP leader has dismissed as politically motivated.
Contacted via email on Sunday, Mr. Rainsy said he was advising supporters against demonstrating in order to avoid a repeat of the attack on two opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in October, which came immediately after a CPP-backed protest against the CNRP outside the Assembly compound.
“Even though demonstrations by Cambodians in the USA are always peaceful, contrary to the violent counter-demonstrations by CPP thugs in Cambodia, I had to launch the above appeal because I don’t want any violent incident to happen in Cambodia that would further increase the political tension and derail the election process,” he said.
“A peaceful democratic transition through credible elections remains the CNRP’s top priority,” he added.
Undeterred by either Mr. Rainsy or the prime minister, the Cambodia-America Alliance is preparing to protest outside the summit venue in Rancho Mirage, California, on February 15, the first of the two-day summit.
“The Cambodia-America Alliance will not be deterred by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his threats, as Khmers should no longer tolerate these types of intimidation. We are committed to challenging his dictatorial rule by virtue of our belief in the Kingdom and her people deserving so much better,” says a statement posted to the group’s website.
“This dictator will be at our doorsteps, and he must be reminded that this is America, land of the free and home of the brave.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)