Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be no violence in the capital despite Rainsy’s vowed return to the Kingdom.
Hun Sen also urged those involved in Rainsy’s plot to join some 300 others and confess.
Rainsy had announced that he would land at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Friday on Thai Airways Flight TG931. He would then continue to Aranyaprathet at the border and enter Cambodia through Poipet.
However, the Thai Airways counter turned away the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), AFP reported.
“I am extremely shocked because the people need me in Cambodia. I will never give up,” Rainsy told reporters as he got into a taxi to leave the airport. He insisted he would seek “an alternative flight to be able to leave for Thailand today”.
On Wednesday, while not mentioning Rainsy by name, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the country would adhere to its “commitment to Asean” and “not allow any anti-government person to use Thailand for activism”.
Despite this, Rainsy continues to claim he will land in Thailand.
Presiding over the launch of the National Development Strategic Plan 2019-2023 on Thursday at a hotel in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he had received information that parents of factory workers were worried about their daughters and sons working in Phnom Penh and had told them to go back home, fearing outbreaks of violence in the capital.
“There will be no fighting in the middle of Phnom Penh. If there is any action, it will target only nine people. But these nine people will not come, and no wonder! Now he delays his departure for November 9,” Hun Sen said, referring to nine people the court had issued arrest warrants for and Rainsy’s planned return.
“He won’t depart on November 7, reaching Thailand on the 8th and arriving in Cambodia on the 9th,” the prime minister said, adding that Rainsy was only strong on Facebook.
Hun Sen thanked Malaysia and Indonesia for their cooperation in detaining a former senior CNRP leader and its supporters, when he referred to CNRP vice-president Mu Sochua who was reportedly arrested by Malaysian authorities.
He also thanked Thai Prime Minster Prayut for not allowing Rainsy into Thailand to enter Cambodia.
Hun Sen reminded all those involved with plotting to come out and confess to receive clemency.
He said some of them were hiding in the Cardamom Mountains, but they should come and confess to be able to join in the Water Festival celebrations.
They would be arrested once they were found, he said, as they had crossed the red line of freedom of speech by insulting King Norodom Sihamoni, calling on him to abdicate, and by seeking the arrest of the prime minister.
“I want to stress that I appeal to all of those involved and are already on the list – you cannot flee anywhere. So to avoid problems for yourselves, just show yourselves. We will forgive you if you stop your plotting and will not punish you,” Hun Sen stressed.
“Please our international friends, understand this about Cambodia – Cambodia has no choice but to protect the lives of our people and the peace that must not be destroyed by any small group of people,” he said.
A National Police spokesperson told The Post that as of Thursday, 298 people involved with plotting had confessed, while 63 had been arrested and 69 were subject to arrest warrants.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Hun Sen was using a carrot and stick strategy to get his opponents to surrender to him.
Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said Hun Sen had given those who supported Rainsy out of “confusion” a chance for leniency.
“There are those who are misinformed and have been cheated. But the government still has a heart for them to achieve national reconciliation.
“National reconciliation by forgiving those who have been misinformed is really important for a leader and the government,” Touch said.
Additional reporting by Joseph Curtin