In recent years, some observers have said that the exiled Cambodian Sam Rainsy lacked the courage to return to Cambodia, as he had several times announced. Yet when he took all possible steps to return to his country on November 9, it was Hun Sen’s government in Phnom Penh that did everything in its power to prevent him from setting foot in his country: a ban on airlines serving Cambodia from transporting Sam Rainsy, on pain of sanctions for “complicity with a convict”; a request to the Thai government in Bangkok to prevent Sam Rainsy from entering Cambodia by land via Thailand (as personally confirmed by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha); the mobilization of tens of thousands of soldiers and police ordered by Hun Sen to block any entry by Sam Rainsy and his supporters; and multiple preventative arrests and threats of legal action for “sedition” and “treason” against countless inhabitants of Cambodia who were preparing to welcome Sam Rainsy on his return.
Hun Sen has not hesitated to contradict himself and backpedal. After having many times threatened to arrest the “convict” Sam Rainsy – found guilty by a court under Hun Sen’s orders for purely political reasons – and to throw him into prison where he would languish for decades to atone for his crimes, the very same Hun Sen did everything he could to avoid having to arrest and imprison Sam Rainsy by simply preventing him from returning to Cambodia.
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