But King Questions Edict’s Legitimacy
Sixty-eight opposition party officials are on a government list banning them from leaving the country.
The list of mostly parliamentary members and generals includes Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition figure Sam Rainsy.
In the documents, National Police Director-General Hok Lundy has given a directive saying that the individuals listed aren’t authorized to leave the country.
King Norodom Sihanouk weighed in on the issue Monday, releasing a statement critical of the new government policy.
In a letter addressed to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, the King wrote that he had received a letter from opposition activist Kem Sokha, who complained about being prevented to travel and asked for the King’s help.
“I hereby send you this letter to examine and help resolve,” the King wrote to Hun Sen. “To my point of view, the Royal Government does not have the right to ban any National Assembly member from traveling in and out of the country.”
Apparently directed at top airport and border security officials, the document singles out top opposition leaders and leaders of the anti-Hun Sen National United Front. “You must seek advice from your superior should they prepare to leave the country,” the instructions state. Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy are the two largest parties in the opposition front.
Reports of a list surfaced last week when immigration police at Pochentong Airport prevented Kem Sokha from leaving. That was believed to be the first time the government had banned travel by a political leader since the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.
Legal experts said last week that restricting travel violates Article 40 of the Constitution, which protects such basic human rights as freedom of movement.
“I have not seen the list,” Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday. “But I think that the Hun Sen statement [of Sept 7] is more than enough to understand this issue.”
On Sept 7, shortly after two grenades exploded inside his Phnom Penh compound, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that opposition figures wouldn’t be allowed to leave Cambodia.
“Now [the party leaders] are all here inside the country, they cannot escape as [I] will order the airport to close for them to leave the country,” Hun Sen said.
Khieu Sopheak said that “so far there’s no change” in that directive. He characterized those prevented from leaving as “steering committee members whose political parties are involved in an illegal demonstration.”
Rosemary McCreery, director of the UN human rights center in Cambodia, said it is up to the government to show why an individual would not be allowed to travel.
“Unless there is a declared reason, our assumption is that they should be free to leave the country,” she said.
The list includes Funcinpec officials such as Tol Lah, Ly Thuch, May Sam Oeun, Ahmad Yahya, Than Sina, Lu Laysreng, Ing Kieth, You Hockry, Hong Sun Huot, Veng Sereyvuth, Uk Vithun and Generals Kieng Vang, Sau Phan and Dien Del. Sam Rainsy officials include his wife, Tioulong Saumura, Yim Sokha and Son Chhay.
The list includes 58 politicians and 14 Funcinpec police and military generals. Four names show up on both lists, making the final count 68. The document is signed by Nong Ny Nean, vice director of the National Police’s department of foreigners.
A Funcinpec police general said Monday he is concerned about the order restricting his ability to leave: “I worry every day about the situation. We are trying to decide the best thing to do to resolve the problem.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd)