Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen on November 14 ordered the release of dozens of opponents and activists accused of helping his arch-rival plot a coup. The prime minister ordered Justice Ministry officials to take the necessary actions to ensure that the detainees are released on bail. The arrests were linked to attempts by the leader of opposition Sam Rainsy to return home from France where he lived since 2015 to escape jail for convictions which he claims are politically motivated.
Hun Sen had sent arrest warrants for Rainsy to neighboring countries ahead of his planned homecoming on November 9. He had also beefed up security at the Thai border crossing and the government has said that they will regard Rainsy's return as a coup attempt. Hun Sen, who ruled Cambodia since 1985 said on Thursday that the coup had an ill will, but people did not join it. He ordered that 70 opposition activists would be released on bail for the sake of national unity, adding they had been cheated by Rainsy. This announcement came days after Cambodia lifted house arrest restrictions on Rainsy's political ally and the co-founder of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha.
The CNRP was dissolved by a court order ahead of the July 2018 general election with 118 of its leaders banned from politics for five years. Rainsy promised to come home on Saturday to mark Cambodia's Independence Day but was blocked from a Thai Airways flight in Paris. He had to fly to Malaysia instead, and then to Jakarta on Thursday morning. The absence of genuine opposition to contest the polls enabled the ruling Cambodian People's Party to secure all 125 seats in the Assembly and Hun Sen to extend his 33-year rule for another five years.