The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific. This post features Sam Rainsy the President of the Cambodian Democratic Movement of National Rescue.
Who is he?
Sam Rainsy is the long-time leader of Cambodia’s opposition movement. He lived in exile in France, where he worked in the private sector from 1965 until 1992. He returned to Cambodia and became minister of finance following the 1993 UN-sponsored elections, but was dismissed from his post as well as from the National Assembly in 1995.
Rainsy faced defamation charges following his self-imposed exile to France in 2005 for accusing the ruling coalition of the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec of corruption. He also implicated Prime Minister Hun Sen in a deadly 1997 grenade attack on a rally led by his Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the killing of demonstrators during the 1998 national elections. Rainsy returned to Cambodia in 2006 after receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni at Hun Sen’s request. He fled back to France in 2009 and resides there today. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in absentia by a Cambodian court in 2010. He remains one of the government’s most outspoken critics.
Why is he in the news?
Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, leader of the second-largest opposition party, the Human Rights Party, announced July 16 that their organizations will merge to form a new Cambodian Democratic Movement of National Rescue, to contest national elections in 2013. Rainsy will need all the support he can muster after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party won an overwhelming victory in local elections in June. The SRP’s poor showing underscored a growing cynicism toward the party, even among many who oppose Hun Sen.
What can we expect from him?
Sam Rainsy will lead the new coalition party on much the same platform as the SRP: anti-corruption, nationalism, and justice for the poor. However, the merger with the HRP suggests in the National Assembly elections next year he will focus more attention on the last of these than the first two. Rainsy will pay particular attention to hot button issues like labor rights and land evictions, which will give his coalition its best chance to score points against the ruling party.