Opinion: Deciding Not to Return Was the Only Responsible Choice

In “Government Runs Amok as Opposition Leaders Absent” (April 29), political analyst Ou Virak reportedly said “the present situation might look different had Mr. Rainsy had the courage to return to Cambodia and stare down his jail sentence in November, as he promised to do in a public speech,” meaning I changed my plans without serious reasons.

—Opinion—

As a matter of fact, a series of unexpected events quickly occurred in November 2015. On the 13th, while I was in South Korea meeting with Cambodian workers in an industrial area near Seoul, I learned that an arrest warrant against me was issued that day in Phnom Penh in spite of my parliamentary immunity. I publicly said that day this would not change my plan to return to Cambodia on the 16th as had been scheduled.

On the morning of the 16th, I learned that the CPP-controlled National Assembly had illegally lifted my parliamentary immunity, thus depriving me of a defensive weapon for the legal battle I was preparing to conduct on the ground.

Shortly after, I received a call from Phnom Penh from the ambassador of a friendly country conveying a message from a high-ranking and well-intentioned government official asking me to delay my return so as to give him some time to work out a solution by first defusing a dangerously tense situation.

Later that day, I received a call from my colleague Eng Chhay Eang informing me of an urgent meeting of all CNRP members of parliament that had just ended with a unanimous recommendation to me to delay my return in light of possible violence that some elements of the CPP would have created as soon as my plane landed at Phnom Penh International Airport later that evening, thus putting at risk the lives of many CNRP supporters who were preparing to welcome me at the same place.

What would another Cambodian opposition leader have decided on his return that day under such circumstances if he claims to be responsible?

Sam Rainsy is president of the opposition CNRP.

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