Political analyst Lao Mong Hay has predicted that Sam Rainsy would be jailed, beaten or killed if he ever returned to the Kingdom as he has claimed he would.
However, this was disputed by Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia who refuted the last two predictions as “Cambodia practises the rule of law”.
Rainsy currently lives in France to escape a slew of criminal charges and court convictions filed against him by the government.
Speaking to The Post, Mong Hay was predicting what will likely happen to Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), if he ever set foot on Cambodian soil.
He said Rainsy would be treated no different from his CNRP co-founder, Kem Sokha, who spent months in Tbong Khmum prison before being allowed home on court-supervised bail.
Mong Hay said imprisonment was one of the three scenarios awaiting Rainsy if he followed through with his claims of soon returning to Cambodia.
“The second possibility is that Rainsy would be beaten like the Khmer Rouge’s head of state Khieu Samphan when he returned to Phnom Penh in 1991 and finally as a third prediction, he would be assassinated like former Philippine opposition leader Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino,” he said.
Mong Hay also compared Rainsy’s planned return to that of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was arrested in July last year for corruption. He said he wanted to see Rainsy actually return and the government provide for his safety should he do so.
“Sam Rainsy should prove himself a man of his word and return as he has promised. He should follow the example of Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan.”
“Our government should do its primary duty to protect every citizen and give him effective assistance and protection so that he can return safely to his homeland,” Mong Hay said.
Nevertheless, he did not expect that the former CNRP president would return. “He has said that [he will return] many times but has never returned in the past when facing arrest and imprisonment.”
“His predicament has not changed this time. And based on today’s situation in the country, it is even worse [for him] than before,” he said.
Rainsy vowed to return this year but did not reveal when exactly he planned to make his return.
Mao Monyvann, a former CNRP lawmaker who recently slammed Rainsy’s “acting president” title, on Wednesday welcomed his (Rainsy’s) self-proclaimed plan to return.
“Now is the best moment if the former CNRP president returns to his homeland. It gives hope to the compatriots in the whole of Cambodia. I believe Cambodians will applaud him. The people are anxious to wait for his magnificent presence since he had decided to return to the country.”
“As former deputy chief of the executive committee of CNRP, I would like to appeal to our Khmer compatriots who love the country and democracy to participate in large numbers [to welcome him]. It is a good time to rescue democracy in Cambodia,” he claimed.
Monyvann believed that Rainsy would not be arrested because his return would be supported by local and international communities. On the contrary, he said, if Rainsy delays his return, it would only make people lose hope in him.
Asked if Rainsy would be arrested and jailed or even killed, Monyvann said anything could happen, but it is reasonable for him to return. He said a large number of supporters would prevent bad things from happening.
“I believe there won’t be a big challenge for him. If they [authorities] take a risk to do something [like Lao Mong Hay] said, it would backfire on the leader [Prime Minister Hun Sen],” he said.
Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute said Mong Hay’s first prediction is absolutely correct on what would happen. Rainsy would be arrested if he returns because of law enforcement and due process.
“There are [guilty] verdicts from the courts, so the authorities will implement the court verdict, arrest him and put in prison far from Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that clashes would likely happen between the authorities and Rainsy’s supporters.
He said Rainsy would not be beaten or killed like Mong Hay said because the authorities would provide him with due safety, even though he was facing jail time. But he warned that the last two predictions could happen through a “third hand”.
“It is hard to predict. It could be the third hand who would do it [kill Rainsy]. It could be a foreign power that does it to turn the situation chaotic in Cambodia in order to achieve their political agendas,” he said.
In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh on Wednesday condemned Rainsy’s activities abroad in calling on the international community to sanction Cambodia.
He said Rainsy cheated the international community by reporting to them that Cambodia was “miserable”.
“[He] shouts abroad and lies by saying that Oh! Cambodia is miserable, [it’s a] dictatorship, violates human rights, and pressure is necessary . . . everything. And [the international community] believes that [and says] Oh! it may be true, they just echo him,” Banh said.
He was speaking during the closing of a 2018 military training and the opening of the 2019 training and added that Cambodia had already experienced enough hardships without those like Rainsy making matters worse.
Banh also questioned the international community for believing Rainsy’s allegations that Cambodia has faced a setback in its democracy and human rights.
“I really wonder why they are cheated by a small group of people who keep cheating. I wonder how they could cheat them [the international community].”
“They said Cambodia was not democratic . . . Cambodia doesn’t respect human rights, and those people believe it. He said Cambodia must change. What will we change to become? We have democracy by organising elections which are never late. Wasn’t that democratic?” he asked.