Phnom Penh (dpa) – Human Rights Watch condemned the exile of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday, joining other rights organizations that have criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen’s demand to bar him from entering the country.
Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile in France, where he is also a citizen, since November 2015, when a seven-year-old criminal defamation charge resurfaced that could have landed him in jail.
His exile is the latest event in a months-long crackdown on the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which is seen as a major contender in the 2018 national election.
A victory would be unprecedented in Cambodia, where Hun Sen has ruled the country under various titles for over 30 years.
“The official exile of opposition leader Sam Rainsy is just the latest effort by Cambodia’s ruling party to win the next national elections – by ensuring they have no real competition,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Hun Sen issued the directive earlier this month, according to Human Rights Watch, and ordered that Rainsy be banned from boarding any plane to Cambodia. He also told immigration officials to arrest him if he entered the country.
The criticism from Human Rights Watch follows that of Wan-Hea Lee, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights's representative for Cambodia.
She told the Cambodia Daily on Monday that “exile” violates Rainsy’s rights under the Cambodian constitution and the International Covenant For Civil And Political Rights.