How ASEAN deal with Sam Rainsy in his attempt to return home

By Patipat Kittichokwattana

Sam Rainsy has been caught in the spotlight of international politics observers in his attempt to return home. He tweeted the picture of Thai Airways ticket from Paris to Bangkok on November 7. Following, he unveiled his plan to arrive Cambodia on November 9, the Independence Day, aiming to lead a mass demonstration against the long regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy is a politician and leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) who plays a major role in the long political conflicts. Sam Rainsy became a Member of Parliament (MP) after 1993 general election supervised by UNTAC. Later, he formed the opposition bloc which became a sole challenger to Hun Sen government. In 2015, he was accused of involving with foreigner’s plot to overthrown Hun Sen which later the Supreme Court ruled to dissolve his party and banned from politic for 5 years. He finally left Cambodia until now.

Although his attempt to return home is quite low possible but it caused a stressful relationship across ASEAN nation. Unwilling to embrace difficulty, Thailand confirmed ASEAN non-interference principle and stated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand. Following, the flight ticket was then vaguely withheld. As expected, the Westerner and international organizations expressed high concern over preventing Cambodian opposition return home.

Malaysian, in contrast, allowed Sam Rainsy to enter and was further invited by a group of MPs to a brief meeting. His entry and meeting with MPs were apparently meaningful. On the one hand, Malaysia maintained its discretion whether comply with ASEAN non-interference principle or not. The decision was made on its own sovereignty, not by the Cambodia government’s request. On the other hand, Malaysia was recognized as a leader in promoting democracy over other ASEAN nations. It fulfilled liberal democracy status of Malaysia.

Indonesia was the next destination. Sam Rainsy tweeted his picture at the Kuala Lumper International Airport waiting for the flight. At first, he was refused as when Malaysia Airlines denied his boarding. He was blocked under the instruction of Indonesian authorities, said Malaysia Airlines. But Indonesia immigration official insisted that there was not any request from Cambodia to block his entry. Finally, he arrived at Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport on the next morning. Indonesia was then praised from keeping respectful to human rights.

It is questionable that these attempts to return home deserve praise for Malaysia and Indonesia in promoting democracy, disgrace for Thailand from disrespectful of human rights. In fact, Prime Minister Hun Sen doesn’t mind the travels of Sam Rainsy, he only wants ASEAN countries not to send Sam Rainsy to Cambodia at this moment. Moreover, Sam Rainsy could silently enter Cambodia by the border of neighboring countries whenever he wants. His attempt was intended to draw attention from the press. It can be said that the travels of Sam Rainsy would eventually satisfy political campaigns.

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Patipat Kittichokwattana, a PaddyNews writer