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Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy resigns

By Amy R. Connolly
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy resigns
Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, resigned Saturday, apparently in response to plans for a new law that could dissolve the party. Photo courtesy Sam Rainsy/Facebook

Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The exiled leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party resigned Saturday, apparently in response to plans for a new law that could dissolve the party.

Sam Rainsy, in announcing his resignation in a letter posted on his Facebook page, said he was resigning as the official leader of the opposition party but said he is still focused on resistance to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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"I would like to inform the permanent committee and steering committee directors about my decision, and consider the decision coming into force from the date of my signature," the statement said. "Please, permanent committee and steering committee directors as well as all former colleagues in the CNRP, accept deep regrets and friendship from me."

The resignation comes after the prime minister announced possible changes to laws governing political parties that allow the government to dissolve parties whose members have committed criminal offenses. The vote on the amendment is scheduled for April 1.

Rainsy has led the opposition party since 2012 as a merger between his own Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party.

In 2015, Raisy exiled himself in France to avoid criminal defamation charges, which have been widely viewed as politically motivated. In 2016, Cambodia formally ordered immigration officials to take legal action to prevent him from re-entering the country.

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"Firstly, the measure against me is totally illegal," Rainsy said in 2016. "I must not and I cannot be barred from coming back to Cambodia. This is a fundamental right of citizens."

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