Cambodia’s ambassador to Indonesia grabbed the microphone as Cambodia’s opposition in exile attempted to outline its plans for a Nov. 9 return to the country at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The ambassador, Hor Nam Bora, later issued an open letter calling on the Indonesian government to arrest and deport “fugitive” CNRP vice president Mu Sochua, who presided over the press conference.
Meanwhile, CNRP acting president Sam Rainsy posted online an itinerary to fly into Bangkok on Nov. 8, saying he had written to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha requesting his entry. Prayuth, however, quickly shut the door on Rainsy’s request.
At Jakarta’s JS Luwansa Hotel on Wednesday, Sochua sat behind a table waiting to speak as Nam Bora took to the microphone and addressed gathered reporters, according to footage circulated online.
Nam Bora “attempted to prevent my press conference from happening,” but ultimately the “conference went on,” Sochua said on Twitter.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Sochua told reporters that the planned Nov. 9 return was different from previous broken promises by Rainsy to return because “we have made a promise to our people that we will go home on Nov. 9 and we will go home on Nov. 9.”
A couple of hours after the conference, Nam Bora released a letter he had written to the Indonesian government saying he was disappointed that Sochua — who has been charged with “attack,” a crime involving the commission of violence against state institutions — had been allowed into Indonesia in the first place.
“Instead of facing the legal matters in the court, Sochua fled the country, and she is now living in the U.S. The Royal Government of Cambodia has sent requests to all ASEAN member states to arrest and deport Sochua to Cambodia if she arrives in their countries,” Nam Bora’s letter said.
Sochua was denied entry into Thailand on Oct. 20 after flying from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.
Nam Bora said two other CNRP activists had also been prevented from flying out of Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Rainsy’s slim chances of getting into Thailand himself appeared to close on Wednesday, as Prayuth told a press conference that he would not allow an “anti-government person” to stage political activities on Thai soil.
“According to our commitment to ASEAN, we will not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, and we will not allow an anti-government person to use Thailand for activism,” Prayuth said, according to a Reuters report. “I have ordered this, so he probably won’t get in.”
Rainsy on Wednesday tweeted a photo of a plane ticket that would see him fly Thai Airways direct from Paris to Bangkok, arriving at 6 a.m. on Friday. He had earlier written a letter to Prayuth requesting entry for the sake of Cambodians, “who deserve a chance at a democratic debate over the future of their society.”
In a statement on Wednesday, former Philippine MP and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) board member Teddy Baguilat criticized Prayuth’s comments about denying Rainsy entry to Thailand.
“The decision is solely based on political grounds and is a blatant attempt to silence voices of the Cambodian opposition,” Baguilat said. “It is time that ASEAN countries realize that it is more sustainable and in its own interest to promote democracy and human rights within the bloc rather than give free rein to unpredictable and reckless despotic leaders.”
The CNRP, which was dissolved in November 2017, has called on Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand to rally to support its exiled senior leaders as they walk across the border back to their home country.
The Cambodian government, however, has called their planned homecoming a coup attempt, and has arrested dozens of CNRP supporters over the past few months for “plotting” a government overthrow. It has warned airlines that fly to Cambodia that carrying CNRP leaders back to the country would amount to abetting the opposition plot.
Additional reporting by Penh Chamroeun