BANGKOK – Thailand denied entry to Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy over concerns he would engage in political campaigning in the neighbouring Southeast Asian nation, officials said Wednesday.
Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s former finance minister, will not be allowed to enter Thailand until a general election in Cambodia is over, Foreign Ministry spokesman Manasvi Srisodapol said.
“The Thai government does not allow a third party to use Thailand as a location to carry out a political activity that could have an impact on our allied countries, especially the neighbours,” Manasvi said. “So we told him not to come and hold it until after the election.”
A long-time opposition leader, Sam Rainsy is living in self-imposed exile in France to avoid 12 years in prison from convictions widely seen as politically motivated. His party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, faces an uphill battle against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s well-organized and financed political machine in the general election in July, and is campaigning without Sam Rainsy’s presence in the country.
Sam Rainsy was scheduled to attend a launch of his autobiography at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Wednesday, but Manasvi said he was turned away at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Tuesday.
“The Thai authorities have considered the case and deliberated that he could not avoid conducting a political activity at this event, so we had to deny him the entry,” Manasvi added.
FCCT President Anasuya Sanyal said the book launch, sponsored by the book’s publisher, will not be cancelled and that Sam Rainsy will call in to talk via Skype. She said the club did not regard the planned event “as something controversial in any way” and the entry denial “came as a shock to most people.”
“The FCCT continues to be a space for freedom of expression and that’s why we are who we are,” she said.
Thailand has denied visas to several visitors, fearing the trips could upset ties with other countries, including the Dalai Lama’s sister and activists from Indonesia and Vietnam.