Ministry opposes EU Rainsy backing

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn expressed strong disapproval of a plan by EU parliamentarians to escort Sam Rainsy to Cambodia. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has expressed its strong disapproval of a plan by EU parliamentarians to escort Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), to the Kingdom.

The ministry released a statement on Saturday after Rainsy recently announced that he would return to Cambodia in September escorted by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

“An escaped convict, Sam Rainsy has been charged and sentenced to imprisonment on several counts of treason, incitement to commit crimes, insulting King Norodom Sihamoni and encouraging the armed forces to disobey orders."

“In this regard, if such action is taken by a small number of MEPs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation would like to express its strong disappointment."

“We consider their proposed actions as undiplomatic and disrespectful to Cambodian sovereignty and the rule of law of the Kingdom,” the statement said.

In addition, the ministry reminded the MEPs of Article 41 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which requires all persons “enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state”.

The ministry strongly urged the MEPs to reconsider their “ill-informed decision and the undiplomatic move”, saying the ministry had made an unwavering commitment to uphold the rule of law and maintain the peace, stability and public order the Cambodian people were currently enjoying.

Ministry spokesman Ket Sophan could not be reached for further comment on Sunday.

However, government spokesman Phay Siphan said: “If the parliamentarians come to Cambodia with the aim of mobilising unrest or inciting riots, we will not allow them in.

“We could take that first action and refuse them entry. The second action would be that, when they enter, we may chase them out – because this is the right, freedom and legality of the Royal Government of Cambodia,” Siphan said.

London-based Liberal International (LI) late last week renewed its call for the Cambodian government to drop the charges against former CNRP president Kem Sokha and other opposition politicians, including Rainsy.

“[LI] expresses its strong support for the escaped CNRP leadership to return to Cambodia in order to seek solutions, the release of Sokha and to restore democracy,” it said.

Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, supported the government’s move against the EU parliamentarians, saying they were violating the sovereignty and laws of the Kingdom because Rainsy had been sentenced on many counts by the courts and faced many outstanding legal cases.

“It is a flagrant violation if they come with Sam Rainsy to enter Cambodia. Hence, Cambodia has the right to enforce its laws,” he said.