After failing to board a flight from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday, Sam Rainsy, acting president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said he was still committed to try to return to Cambodia.
“Our plan hasn’t changed to return to our motherland, together with other people around the world to push for positive change,” Rainsy said in a video late Thursday. “So please don’t panic as we’ve succeeded 70 percent already.”
He said he would buy a new air ticket to get closer to the region.
Several senior leaders of the CNRP have been living abroad since the Supreme Court dissolved the party in November 2017. In August, however, they pledged to attempt a return to Cambodia on Nov. 9, the country’s Independence Day.
CNRP vice president Mu Sochua said in a message to CamboJA on Friday that the timetable for return had not changed.
“We still have the same plan to return to Cambodia on time,” Sochua said.
The party has previously said it wants to walk across the border from Thailand alongside thousands of supporters. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, however, said on Wednesday that he would not allow political activities to be conducted on Thai soil.
Nine CNRP leaders, including Rainsy and Sochua, have been charged with “attack,” referring to the commissioning of acts of violence against the state, and face up to 30 years in prison if they return to Cambodia.
Sochua is currently in Kuala Lumpur, after being briefly detained by airport immigration. She tried and failed to enter Thailand last month.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that he doubted any of the leaders would turn up on Saturday.
“Don’t worry about those nine people,” he said in a speech at a conference on the government’s National Development Plan 2019-2023 at Phnom Penh’s Sokha Hotel. “They will not come.”
The government, which has labeled the planned homecoming a coup attempt, has nevertheless deployed troops along the Thai border and arrested dozens of CNRP supporters in the lead up to the weekend.