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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 12:22 GMT
Cambodian Opposition
Sam Rainsy
Call for sanctions

In a HARDtalk interview on 16th February, Zeinab Badawi talks to Sam Rainsy, the leader of Cambodia's opposition.

The leader of Cambodia's opposition, Sam Rainsy, has called for international economic sanctions against his country. Mr Sam left Cambodia earlier this month after losing his parliamentary immunity from prosecution. He has compared the political situation in Cambodia to that of Burma.

I used to be the democratic alibi for the government.
Sam Rainsy
Sam Rainsy has been trying to rally international support for his cause. Since leaving Cambodia, he's spent time in France and the United States.

The Sam Rainsy Party has a number of backers in the US Congress. Several senators are critics of Cambodia's governing coalition. Mr Sam has asked them to impose visa restrictions on Prime Minister Hun Sen and other leaders. But his other request would affect hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.

Sam Rainsy told Zeinab Badawi that he wants economic sanctions to be put in place. That would include the garment industry, which is the country's biggest employer and accounts for eighty percent of Cambodia's exports. But Mr Sam said that some sort of action had to be taken because the government was trying to marginalise the opposition.

SAM RAINSY "I used to be the democratic alibi for the government, but this is not true anymore because they want to arrest parliamentarians who are critical and even the leaders of the opposition are now subject to very strong pressure. They rule the country by fear and they use techniques that would not be called democratic, such as vote buying. So the present regime is not very different from the Khmer Rouge. There is a difference in degree but not in nature. What I would like to emphasise is that we may have in Cambodia in the next few weeks or the next few months a series of political trials. That could be very similar to the political trials in former Yugoslavia".

ZEINAB BADAWI: So you will be going back? You'll be going back?

SAM RAINSY: "If there is a strong international community to prevent that such trials be organised -- normal and acceptable trials are organised, then I will go back".

Cambodia's Information Minister, Khieu Kanharith, has accused Sam Rainsy of trying to destroy Cambodia's international image. But he said the opposition leader lacked credibility and he was confident that Mr Sam's campaign wouldn't affect international investment in Cambodia.

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT,1130 GMT, 1530 GMT, 1930 GMT, 0030 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30

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