Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said handcuffs and a prison cell were waiting for Sam Rainsy should he step foot in the Kingdom, while one analyst said it was “a waste of time” to take seriously the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) acting president’s promise to return.
Another said it was a Rainsy strategy to have “many people imprisoned” to provoke a reaction from the international community, especially with fellow CNRP co-founder Kem Sokha on bail awaiting trial on treason charges.
Rainsy and Hun Sen last month made a bet on party president Sokha’s future. Rainsy said Sokha would be released from “house arrest” between December 9 and March 3, promising to return to Cambodia and be arrested should this not happen.
The prime minister accepted the wager, saying: “I dare to bet with Sam Rainsy. If Kem Sokha were to be released [as Rainsy describes] I, Hun Sen, am willing to step down.”
Hun Sen said he needed to accept Rainsy’s bet even though he found it “immoral”.
“What is frustrating is that [Rainsy] bets on his political partner’s freedom. I’ve accepted the bet, I can’t reject the bet. It’s immoral but I have to [take the] bet."
“So I hope Rainsy will come. [Rainsy] has announced he’ll come soon – so if you’re brave enough, come! I’m prepared for sooner or later. For any time, I’m prepared.”
Rainsy did not respond to questions from The Post on Wednesday.
Hun Sen said he would welcome the acting president of the CNRP with handcuff and prison any time Rainsy returns to the Kingdom.
“I am already prepared for the one who is about to return home. I have already prepared handcuffs and prisons. Please, the hero, return to Cambodia before or after the period of the bet. Please come, if you don’t come you are not a human … you are a beast.
“You come – Prey Sar or Trapaing Phlong, Preah Vihear or Oddar Meanchey prisons – jails everywhere are waiting for you,” the prime minister said in Kandal province while meeting 15,600 factory workers from 22 factories from Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces on Wednesday.
Hun Sen’s comments came in response to a Facebook post from senior CNRP officials Um Virakroath and Eng Chhai Eang saying Rainsy would return to Cambodia “before Khmer New Year” in April.
The prime minister called on Rainsy to face up to the crimes he has been convicted of. He said Rainsy always fled after committing crimes and only made promises to return from a distance.
Hun Sen said he had ordered all three of Cambodia’s international airports to allow Rainsy’s return.
“I have ordered civil aviation not to block him. All civil aviation, allow this guy to come in. I want to clear the [matter] with him. I order civil aviation not to ban this evil guy from entering the country because we need to handcuff him."
However, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said taking Rainsy at his word would be a waste of time.
“It is a waste of time to take seriously what Sam Rainsy says about a return, and least of all to react to such a statement. He has said such things before but has never returned. If and when he returns, so be it."
“The law is there to arrest him and, for this matter, our efficient law enforcement officers will not fail to do their job."
“However, between the lines, there is a ray of hope that Kem Sokha might be released when the period of the bet has expired,” Mong Hay said.
Ou Vireak, the director of independent think tank Future Forum, said Rainsy gained importance from people reacting to his comments.
“Rainsy will try [anything] as a strategy, even putting Kem Sokha’s freedom [at stake] on a bet. This is his strategy to block the possible release of Sokha or block any agreement between Hun Sen and Sokha.
“Rainsy wants to have many people imprisoned as a strategy to get international reaction,” Vireak said.