Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sam Rainsy leaves a boarding desk at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday. AFP

THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

Rainsy, the "acting president" of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), did not board Flight TG931 from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi on Thursday evening as he claimed he would.

He told reporters as he left Charles de Gaulle that he was “extremely shocked because the people need me in Cambodia. I will never give up”.

However, Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia said on Friday that if Rainsy really wanted to enter Cambodia, he could fly directly into the Kingdom from Japan or South Korea.

Thai Airways had "received from very high up the instruction not to allow me to board", Rainsy claimed.

Thai Airways France told The Post on Friday that the airline had been instructed to not allow Rainsy on the plane to Bangkok.

"Mr Rainsy said on social media that he intended to travel to Cambodia via Thailand, even though the Thai authorities had indicated their refusal to welcome Mr Rainsy.

"The Thai police instructed Thai Airways not to let Mr Rainsy board his flight to Bangkok. These guidelines have therefore been applied," said Pascale Baret, Thai Airways France advertising and digital executive.

Rainsy claimed he had planned to return to Cambodia on Saturday – Cambodia's November 9 Independence Day – by arriving in Thailand and continuing on land to Cambodia through the Poipet International Checkpoint.

On Wednesday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha indicated that Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand.

Touch said Rainsy’s claim that Thai Airways had stopped him from boarding the flight was merely an excuse not to return to Cambodia.

“If Rainsy really wanted to enter Cambodia, he could fly directly into the Kingdom from Japan or South Korea.

“This is just a show so he can say that he really wanted to come back but Asean member countries blocked him from doing so, and that the Cambodian government had also banned airlines from letting him board flights.

“These are merely his excuses, but he doesn’t really want to come back,” Touch said.

Touch also said on Friday that CNRP vice-president Mu Sochua, who was reportedly released by Malaysian authorities on Thursday evening was also avoiding to fulfil her promise to return to the Kingdom.

He said if Sochua similarly wanted to return to Cambodia, she could have requested the Malaysian government to deport her to the Kingdom and not to a third country such as the US.

“That would prove that she really is committed to losing ‘freedom and life’ as she has claimed,” Touch said, adding that the Malaysian government could have sent her to Cambodia even without an extradition treaty.

Social analyst Meas Nee said it was very unlikely that Rainsy would return to Cambodia. He said Rainsy could at the most make it to neighbouring countries before being turned away.

This was because Asean member states wanted to demonstrate that they adhered to the bloc's principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states.

“Sam Rainsy knows this is not a viable way [to return], but he had to show his commitment to his supporters. Not being able to enter Cambodia is just his excuse,” Nee said.

However, Nee said while the government had demonstrated the strength of security measures in preparing for his return, Rainsy may have gained political mileage at the international level.

This is because Rainsy’s announced return came with international eyes on Cambodia as the EU decides whether to withdraw the Kingdom's access to its "Everything But Arms" agreement.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay claimed that whether Rainsy had booked his flight or not was irrelevant. What mattered was that his return had been blocked by the "wall" of Thai interests.

“The conflict between him and the prime minister continues,” he said.