Senior Cambodian opposition figure Kem Sokha out of house arrest

FILE- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech during a ceremony in Kampong Speu province south of Phnom Penh Cambodia

Kem Sokha's release comes a day after Sam Rainsy, the acting president of the party who is wanted by the Cambodian authorities and now living in exile in France, arrived in Malaysia from Europe.

His statement came as Rainsy, the "acting president" of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, who had claimed he would return to the Kingdom on Saturday, landed in Malaysia.

The CNRP on Friday urged Cambodian authorities and neighboring countries to allow Sam Rainsy and other CNRP officials "free and peaceful entry" to Cambodia, and to "ensure their safety and free movement" there, mirroring a statement by 56 lawmakers from the European Parliament a day earlier.

Sam Rainsy greets supporters after arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia on Saturday. "By doing so, he's revealing the true goal of the security forces - to intimidate, and repress the rights and democratic aspirations of the Cambodian people".

"Sam Rainsy boards a plane in Paris for a different destination", the article stated below a photograph of him at an airport terminal using a carry-on instance.

Sam Rainsy, 70, who had pledged to return to his native country and join the Cambodian people on Saturday's national independence day, was prevented from boarding a Thai Airways flight from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday on the Thai prime minister's orders.

Cambodia lifted house arrest restrictions on opposition leader Kem Sokha on Sunday, more than two years after he was charged with treason, but the charges remain and he is banned from politics and from leaving the country.

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, he refused to disclose his plans but said, "I will go back home, it is my right, it is my duty". Cambodia's government said he was not barred from entering, but warned it would take action against anyone threatening state security.

"Kem Sokha's release from house detention is a last-minute attempt to deflect European anger at the shoddy way PM Hun Sen and Cambodia have dealt with human rights concerns raised in the EBA process".

In the capital, Phnom Penh, security forces patrolled in pickup trucks during celebrations for the 66th anniversary of independence from France.

Asked whether he planned to return to Cambodia he said: 'I can not say anything.

In a post on Facebook following his release, Kem Sokha expressed disappointment with the investigating judge's rejection of a request from his lawyers to drop the charges against him.

Hun Sen has made clear that he would have Sam Rainsy arrested upon entering the country.

Mr Rainsy said he would be in Malaysia for "a few days" meeting "like-minded friends" and would speak to parliamentarians on Tuesday.

"I will go back home, of course".

Security in Phnom Penh was heavy and especially high Saturday at the border checkpoint at Poipet in the country's northwest, where Sam Rainsy and his top party leaders had announced that they and their supporters would be crossing from Thailand.

Teddy Baguilat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Parliamentarians for Human Rights group said the easing of restrictions on Kem Sokha should also be seen as an attempt to ward off worldwide sanctions.

"Respecting basic human rights is not hard, it simply requires the kind of political commitment that Malaysia has shown today", he said. "More countries in ASEAN need to emulate Malaysia going forward if the bloc is ever going to shake the moniker of being primarily a dictator's club". He also declared in September that the government had sent arrest warrants for Sam Rainsy to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The 65-year-old woman, who is also the vice-president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) which is banned in Cambodia, was reportedly detained by the Malaysian Immigration Department together with two others upon their arrival at the KL International Airport (KLIA) recently.



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