Cambodia: MEP blacklist ‘fake news’

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - Cambodian government placing six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on a blacklist has been dismissed as “completely fake news.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
spokesperson Ket Sophann has dismissed a media report claiming Cambodia
has placed six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on a blacklist
as “completely fake news”.

Speaking to The Post on Thursday, Sophann said that the ministry had
not instructed Cambodian embassies around the world to refuse the MEPs
visas for the Kingdom after they expressed support for the Supreme
Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its
leadership.

“This is not true. It is completely fake news. Cambodia welcomes
international tourists who come with good intentions, but if tourists
come with bad intentions, such as in support of a convict, or could
possibly affect security, then our embassies will not issue them a
visa."

“The ministry instructs our embassies abroad to put national
interests first, especially the protection of independence and
sovereignty,” he said.

The rebuttal came after Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Wednesday
reported that Cambodia has “blacklisted” six EU lawmakers after they
expressed interest in joining the return of CNRP “acting president” Sam
Rainsy and other top leaders living abroad.

CNRP deputy president Mu Sochua late last month announced their
intention to return in August or September and claimed that at least six
MEPs would accompany the CNRP leadership on their return to the
Kingdom.

They would also be joined by dignitaries from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Asean nations, she said.

“The order by Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry includes photos and the
names of those to be barred entry, all of whom have pledged to accompany
acting CNRP president Sam Rainsy on his promised return from four years
in exile sometime later this year,” RFA reported.

Kirth Chantharith, the director-general of the General Immigration
Department, told The Post on Thursday of the sub-decree on permission
for non-immigration tourists entering and leaving Cambodia.

“Those who we believe could affect security, safety and public order …
they will not be permitted to enter the Kingdom of Cambodia,”
Chantharith said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said if the RFA report was true, it
was legitimate for a sovereign state to ban any foreign national it
judged undesirable from entering its territory.

However, besides possibly causing diplomatic rows and further
isolating the Kingdom, such a ban “could have far-reaching consequences
that the government may not be able to cope with”, he said.

“These dignitaries are actively involved in Cambodian affairs and are
influential politicians in their own countries and the EU. They might
not be indifferent to the ban and could intervene with their governments
and the EU to take a stronger stand against Cambodia."

“It was not wise for the government to create further enmity when it
had its hands full of it already, both inside and outside the country,”
Mong Hay said.

In June, Sochua said the return of the high-ranking CNRP would be
peaceful, non-violent and in accordance with democratic principles.

“I would like to stress that the return of the CNRP leadership has
begun and we will arrive back in our motherland in August or no later
than September. We cannot campaign from abroad any longer. We think it
is time to return to our country,” Sochua said.

“We will return for democracy in a peaceful way as Cambodia is our
nation. The CNRP planning committee has taken this joint decision after
careful consideration,” Sochua said in a video streamed on Facebook Live
on Saturday.

She said CNRP acting president Rainsy would return with the group because Cambodia is their motherland.

“People will maybe say: ‘You said earlier that you would not return
unless this or that happened, so why have you decided to return now?’
Brothers and sisters, we will return to our country no later than 2019,”
she said.

Photos

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