The Latest: Cambodia official says Sam Rainsy free to return
KUALA LUMPUR – The Latest on exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy's effort to return to his home country (all times local):
Cambodia's government claims to have reversed its ban on allowing the return of exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, with a top officials saying after he arrived back in Southeast Asia that he can return as an ordinary person but will have to face due justice. Sam Rainsy has several convictions with prison sentences along with charges on several offense pending.
Sar Kheng, interior minister and deputy prime minister, announced the shift on his Facebook page on Saturday. It came shortly after Sam Rainsy arrived by air in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, with virtually no chance of meeting his self-imposed deadline of returning to Cambodia by Saturday.
Sar Kheng, calling Sam Rainsy a culprit and a criminal, said "As of now, there is not any announcement by the Cambodian government to bar culprit Sam Rainsy and his colleagues from entering the country."
Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, upon landing in Malaysia, says he's determined to return to his homeland despite strong attempts by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's government to thwart him.
Rainsy told reporters after his arrival in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday that he has been invited to Malaysia's parliament Tuesday as part of a private visit, an indication that he'll miss a self-imposed deadline to return by Saturday, Cambodia's Independence Day.
He refused to disclose his plans, but said "I will go back home, it is my right, it is my duty." He said the opposition is "on the right track" and will "keep up the hope we will win."
Rainsy had been blocked on Thursday by Thai Airways from boarding a flight from Paris, where he lives in exile, to Bangkok. He took another flight Friday to an undisclosed destination.
Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has landed in Kuala Lumpur in a bid to return to his homeland after Thailand had earlier blocked him from entering.
Rainsy was speaking to reporters after landing in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Rainsy was stopped Thursday by Thai Airways from boarding a flight from Paris, his home in exile, to Bangkok. He boarded a flight on Friday from Paris to an undisclosed destination.
Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy is racing against time to meet his self-declared Saturday deadline to return to his country to lead a movement to depose long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sam Rainsy said late Friday he was boarding a plane in Paris, his home in exile, for an undisclosed destination.
An effort he made Thursday to fly from Paris to Thailand — Cambodia's western neighbor — was thwarted when Thai Airways refused to let him board. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha earlier said he would be barred from entering.
Hun Sen's government has declared Sam Rainsy and fellow leaders of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party unwelcome to return, beefing up security on the country's land borders and telling airlines they should not carry him to his homeland.
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