Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday asked the Justice Ministry to work with the courts to grant bail to activists from the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who have been arrested this year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
“For those whom we’ve arrested, I request the Justice Minister to work with prosecutors, with the courts, to release them on bail at the request of individuals, lawyers or families,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration for a new cement factory in Kampot province. “This is necessary work to do, with the aim of national reconciliation, maintaining peace and comfort for the people.”
Hun Sen said more than 70 CNRP activists had been arrested ahead of the planned return of acting party president Sam Rainsy on Nov. 9, in what the government labeled a coup attempt. Rainsy, who has been living abroad since late 2015 to evade court cases against him, however, didn’t return to Cambodia, saying he was prevented from boarding a flight from Paris to Cambodia’s neighbor Thailand.
Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday instead, and on Thursday party vice president Mu Sochua wrote on Twitter that he had now landed in Jakarta to meet with parliamentarians there.
Hun Sen said that even after the CNRP supporters are bailed, their charges would remain and they must appear at the local police station when summoned.
Hun Sen also appealed to CNRP supporters who had fled the country to come home, saying they would not be arrested or prosecuted.
“As the head of the executive branch, I appeal to all people who have fled to return to the homeland. Don’t hide here and there anymore,” Hun Sen said. “And local authorities, armed forces … don’t do anything. Let them come home comfortably.
“This is not just for our brothers in Thailand, but for those in the Philippines and elsewhere, who couldn’t go to a third country. Come back to the homeland,” he said.
Hun Sen said warrants issued for those who had fled and not been arrested would be withdrawn.
However, he added that he would “never” ask for a royal pardon for Rainsy.
Hun Sen’s backtracking on the government’s recent crackdown against opposition supporters came as the European Union submitted its preliminary report on suspending the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) trade preferences with Cambodia over human rights and political concerns.
European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the Cambodian government had one month to respond to the report, which wasn’t made public, before a final decision is made in February next year.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday also relaxed its supervisory restrictions against CNRP president Kem Sokha, which effectively released him from house arrest more than two years after he was arrested for treason.