Sam Rainsy Meets With Suu Kyi in Burma

Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy met with his Burmese counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday to discuss Cambodia’s upcoming national elections and Burma’s transition toward democracy.

Mr. Rainsy’s visit with Ms. Suu Kyi came as part of an Asean-wide tour in which he is meeting with pro-democracy leaders throughout the region.

“I told her that just before coming to [Rangoon], I had met with [Malaysian opposition leader] Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur and that the three of us, as opposition leaders of three Asean countries, should work together to promote democracy in our region,” Mr. Rainsy said in an email on Sunday.

“She agreed and you will hear more from us in the near future,” he added.

Mr. Rainsy said that the atmosphere in Cambodia is very different from that in Burma, where the country’s leader Thein Sein has said he will step down if Ms. Suu Kyi wins the presidential election in 2015.

Mr. Rainsy remains in self-imposed exile in Paris in order to avoid serving an 11-year prison sentence for convictions that include misinformation, destruction of property and falsifying public documents.

Between July 1989 and November 2010, Ms. Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest for her opposition to the military junta, which has since allowed her to run for Parliament and shown other signs of moving toward democracy.

For his part, Mr. Rainsy has re­peatedly said he would return to Cambodia before the national elections on July 28, but said on Sunday that his return depends on a shift in stance by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I will be back in Cambodia as soon as Mr. Hun Sen understands that, for a country that pretends to implement parliamentary democracy…no outgoing prime minister can legitimately retain his position by unfairly excluding the leader of the opposition—his only real challenger—from the electoral contest,” he said.

Mr. Rainsy is ineligible to run in the national elections, according to the National Election Committee, which struck him from the voter list last year because of his criminal conviction.

Son Chhay, CNRP party whip, said that circumstances in Burma and Cambodia have changed since the democracy leaders last met, and that he hoped that the meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi would inspire Mr. Rainsy to change his mind about not returning to Cambodia.

“When [Mr.] Rainsy met Aung San Suu Kyi many years ago, he advised her to leave the country, but she refused, she said her battle is in Burma, not outside,” he said, adding “now things have turned around since Ms. Suu Kyi has succeeded in getting the junta to change their minds on many things.”

“I think by going to Burma, [Mr. Rainsy] might come out with a different idea of what he has to do next,” he said.

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