A recent visit to Malaysia by Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has strained ties between the two countries.
Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile in Paris, arrived in Kuala Lumpur with his wife on Monday for a two-day private visit, Malaysian Parliamentarian Wong Chen said.
It included a one-hour meeting with three non-executive members of parliament who are interested in human rights and free and fair elections, but not a visit with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian officials said.
The visit angered Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sam Rainsy is one of Hun Sen’s most prominent critics and rivals. He was head of the disbanded opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, but fled to France in 2015 to avoid a series of charges that his supporters say are politically motivated.
“Anwar Ibrahim told me clearly that he wouldn’t allow Sam Rainsy to visit, and I told him that if he allows Sam Rainsy, the two governments can’t work together,” Hun Sen said at a bridge inauguration ceremony in Phnom Penh on Wednesday
A pro-Cambodian government website said Sam Rainsy was kicked out of the country – but Malaysia-based CNRP activist Morn Phalla said that wasn’t true.
Wong said the stopover was made on Sam Rainsy’s way back to France from Indonesia and Australia.
“We have been close friends for almost six years,” he said. “Originally, I had no intention of posting the above as it was a private visit. However, since the matter has garnered some media attention, I hope the above clarifies what actually transpired.”
Malaysia’s foreign ministry said Anwar wasn’t wasn’t aware of Sam Rainsy’s recent trip, and that the two men did not meet.
‘I will shoot you’
Hun Sen also threatened to attack Sam Rainsy with a rocket launcher if he led workers from Thailand into Cambodia.
“Sam Rainsy boasted that he stepped on Malaysian soil, and now he’s boasting about going to Thailand,” Hun Sen said on Wednesday.
Sam Rainsy last week told RFA that if a new pro-democracy Thai government is formed, he will look into traveling to Cambodia through Thailand.
“The Thai government can’t allow you – the non-interference internal policy,” Hun Sen said, referring to ASEAN’s principle of non-interference between its member nations. “If you cross the border from Thailand … I will shoot you. You don’t want to create chaos.”
Sok Ey San, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, told RFA that he doesn't believe Sam Rainsy dares to return to the country. He also said he doesn’t believe many people will welcome Sam Rainsy.
“Why doesn’t he come if people are welcoming him?” he said. “He is conducting political propaganda for his political business.”
Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Khmer.