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Indonesia Blocks Entry of Cambodian Opposition Leader: Malaysia Airlines

Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
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Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to reporters after meeting legislators at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Nov. 12, 2019.
Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to reporters after meeting legislators at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Nov. 12, 2019.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Updated at 11:29 a.m. ET on 2019-11-13

Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy was denied entry into Indonesia on Wednesday after a visit to Malaysia, according to an airline's statement, as the self-exiled leader struggled to return to his home country to push for democratic reforms.

Rainsy was scheduled to take an afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta on Wednesday, but he was not aboard the plane bound for the Indonesian capital.

In a tweet around 3:30 p.m. local time, Rainsy announced that he and two other members of his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were traveling from Malaysia to Indonesia and expected to arrive in Jakarta aboard Malaysia Airlines flight 723 about two hours later.

“Malaysia Airlines denied boarding of the said passenger under the instruction of the Indonesian authorities. For further details please contact the relevant authorities,” said a statement issued by the carrier, also known as MAS.

Indonesian authorities confirmed that Rainsy was not in the country but denied that he had been barred from entering.

“There has been no order to bar entry for the person. Upon checking, Sam Rainsy is not in Indonesia territory,” Immigration Department spokesman Sam Fernando told BenarNews.

Shown the MAS statement, Fernando said, “I don't know. From our side, that's all we can say.”

Rainsy told Radio Free Asia, an online news service affiliated with BenarNews, that he had missed his flight. He did not elaborate.

"My presence in Indonesia will speak volumes about our common interests," Rainsy said by telephone. He is scheduled to leave Malaysia for Indonesia at 9 a.m. Thursday (local time).

Rainsy earlier talked to reporters in Kuala Lumpur after meeting around 20 Malaysian lawmakers at the nation’s parliament.

“Here in Malaysia, we have many friends and like-minded people,” Rainsy said after his closed-door meeting with the legislators.

Asked about Rainsy’s status, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah simply said: “I don't know,” and declined to answer further questions.

Rainsy, who lives in self-exile in France, and other opposition leaders have been trying to re-enter Cambodia to lead what they describe as a restoration of democracy there.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has labeled the plan part of a rebellion and has vowed to arrest the opposition leader on sight.

Rainsy’s earlier attempt to get there via Thailand was thwarted late last week when he was refused permission to board a Thai Airways plane in Paris.

He was later allowed to land in Malaysia, which he described as “a political success.”

“Democracy will prevail. Democracy has prevailed in Malaysia. Democracy will prevail in Cambodia,” he said after arriving in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Tia Asmara in Jakarta contributed to this story.

CORRECTION: An earlier version reported incorrectly that Rainsy arrived in Malaysia on Friday.

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