Thu, 14 Nov 2019

Malaysia allowed a senior Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) official to enter the country Thursday after detaining her for about 19 hours, a Malaysian official said a day after neighboring Thailand said it would deny entry to Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader of the banned opposition party.

Rainsy and senior opposition figures are attempting to return home by Nov. 9 to lead a series of protests they say are aimed at restoring democracy in Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to arrest Rainsy, calling the plan part of a coup attempt.

Mu Sochua, the deputy president of the CNRP, arrived in Malaysia late Wednesday and was held for questioning about her intentions, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters in parliament.

Saifuddin confirmed that Malaysia had received a request to deport Mu Sochua from the government of Cambodian strongman Hun Sen.

"We have received a request but we decide on our own," he said, calling it "a normal request by a government that they may want us to send back certain number of people."

Around nightfall Thursday, Malaysia Human Rights Commission Commissioner Jerald Joseph confirmed the release of Mo Sochua and two other Cambodian activists.

"Confirmed. Papers are being processed. All three will be released. I spoke to Sochua and she is OK," Joseph told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

He also said Sochua and two others would be here in Malaysia for three days before leaving to a third country.

"They are not going to return to Cambodia. They will stay in Kuala Lumpur for three days before heading out to a third country. That is all. I am not at a liberty to tell you more," said Joseph to Benar.

Mu Sochua arrived in Malaysia after Cambodia's ambassador to Indonesia barged into a press conference she was holding in Jakarta on Wednesday and told her Cambodian police would arrest her if she did not leave the country. Officials with Indonesia's foreign ministry and the presidential palace on Thursday declined a BenarNews request to comment on the incident.

In Bangkok on Wednesday, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha cited the ASEAN regional bloc's non-interference policy in announcing that Rainsy could not enter Cambodia from Thailand.

"According to our commitment to ASEAN, we will not interfere in each other's internal affairs, and we will not allow an anti-government person to use Thailand for activism," the former junta-leader turned elected premier told reporters in Bangkok.

"I have ordered this, so he won't be able to enter the country."

Teddy Baguilat of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights said he hoped Malaysia's move would inspire Thailand to rethink its decision.

"We welcome the Malaysian authorities' decision to allow Mu Sochua, as well as Cambodian youth activists Keith Ngoeum and Seang Leang Heng to enter the country," the former Philippine member of parliament said, adding that they should not have been detained in the first place.

"We hope that this will inspire Thailand to allow Sam Rainsy into the country and all other ASEAN countries to respect people's fundamental rights," he said.

Malaysia detained the two other Cambodian activists on Monday while they waited to board a flight to Thailand.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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