LONG BEACH, California — However unconventional the story may appear, many Cambodian politicians in the diaspora and their supporters are convinced that their self-exiled leader Sam Rainsy will soon return to Cambodia, triumphantly escorted by a group of European parliamentarians. They expect him to march toward Phnom Penh to challenge sitting Prime Minister Hun Sen who has, for his part, pledged to have the convicted ex-opposition leader arrested as mandated by the decision of Cambodia’s Supreme Court.
In the weeks ahead, we can expect a story from Cambodia to explode as the feud between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy intensifies. However, as the rivalry has been going on for more than 25 years, some people have gotten tired of the rhetoric and expect to witness the thrill of a kill denouement as they have been repeatedly disappointed by the lack of show from the part of the opposition and left uncertain by the steady consolidation of power by the ruling party.
Sam Rainsy, a French citizen, has proven himself to be the most charismatic driver of the opposition. However, he has also broken promises to his supporters on multiple occasions. It would not be a surprise to anyone if he suddenly discontinued his planned return to Phnom Penh “to arrest Hun Sen” and hand over the prime minister to the International Criminal Court (ICC) — the objective of his return to Cambodia, which he has proclaimed in his own words.
However, in spite of a brouhaha surrounding Sam Rainsy’s return, spiced with the threat of international sanctions against the Hun Sen government, experienced observers see in the current commotion a renewed contraction to squeeze Hun Sen out of power. The pain will relax by the end of the year as realities sink in and the impulse for change will coalesce into a déjà vu.
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