U.S. concerned at Cambodia crackdown, rights group slams cooperation by Thailand, Malaysia

Content image- Phnom Penh Post

Content image- Phnom Penh Post

The United States on Friday expressed concern over Cambodia's crackdown on opposition to authoritarian leader Hun Sen, which has seen dozens of activists arrested and opposition leaders overseas prevented from returning.

Ambassador of Cambodia to Indonesia Hor Nambora extended an apology for his conduct that interrupted a press conference held by opposition leader, Vice President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Mu Sochua, in Jakarta.

Rainsy had planned to return to lead the people's "fight for a better life", describing the long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, as "a brutal dictator", the BBC reported.

Malaysia also has hindered the free movement of Cambodian opposition politicians, stopping two party members from flying to Thailand and temporarily detaining Cambodia National Rescue Party Vice President Mu Sochua when she arrived late Wednesday night.

Cambodia's top opposition leader is vowing to keep a promise to return and lead demonstrations against the country's long-time authoritarian leader after he was barred from boarding a flight to Southeast Asia.

"I found the two youths in detention and we succeeded to all get out", she said, adding that she still plans to return to Cambodia by land.

"They said they have received from very high up the instruction not to allow me to board", he told reporters at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.

"Never, never will I abandon".

Hun Sen had declared that Sam Rainsy and his colleagues would be blocked from entering Cambodia and had informed neighboring countries that they were unwelcome. I will try to the last minute.

"This is between me and Hun Sen".

My request "is based on my responsibility to those supporters who have suffered so much, and to all Cambodians, who deserve a chance at a democratic debate over the future of their society", Rainsy wrote.

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"Democracy will be established as soon as possible; it is our determination, it is our conviction".

He later made an online broadcast on Facebook, where he has nearly 4.8 million followers, calling on his compatriots not to be disappointed and remain strong.

Malaysian authorities detained Mu Sochua on Thursday for entering the country on a USA passport, while Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said during a speech he had ordered customs to not allow Sam Rainsy into the country, saying he was following "rules" of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

While professing a desire to arrest Rainsy and other CNRP leaders, Hun Sen has gone to great lengths to ensure that they can not enter the country.

"We will be seeking all the possibilities, all the options, in order to make sure that we are finally able to arrive in Cambodia to push for the regime change plan that our Cambodians are hungry to see", he said.

Speaking in Yangon on Thursday, Hay said he was disappointed that some ASEAN countries have interfered by attempting to block the CNRP's return, and thanked Myanmar for letting him come.

Brian Eyler, director of Southeast Asia programs at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., notes that the opposition leaders "have been very busy lobbying for their cause outside of Cambodia's borders over the a year ago and a half".

This was because Asean member states wanted to demonstrate that they adhered to the bloc's principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states.

Mr Rainsy is one of Cambodia's leading opposition figures but he has been living in Paris since 2015. A lot of them have convictions or charges pending - many of which have been handed down in absentia. Cambodian courts are widely considered to be under the influence of the government, which employs the law to harass its opponents.

Cambodia's Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017, paving the way for Hun Sen's ruling party to win all the seats in parliament in a general election a year ago.

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