Counting the Costs of Sam Rainsy’s Failed Return to Cambodia

The opposition leader’s thwarted bid to return to the country is not without its costs, irrespective of whatever benefits it may generate.

A bid by Cambodia’s opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy to return with a “tsunami of supporters” and oust Prime Minister Hun Sen ended in folly this weekend after Thai Airways did what was expected and denied him passage on a flight to Bangkok.

Earlier, Sam Rainsy had told his supporters that he would march from Thailand across the border to Cambodia and arrest Hun Sen, heralding a new era of democracy in a country that reverted to a one-party state at last year’s election. The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), co-founded by Sam Rainsy, was banned from contesting.

His much-vaunted return was no more than political theatrics that raised false hopes among his supporters. It also prompted troop deployments that disrupted travel and the start of the annual Water Festival when hundreds of thousands of people pour into the capital.

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