Sam Rainsy: Wanted Cambodian opposition chief delays return

Cambodia's main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy speaks to the press in Tokyo on November 10, 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Rainsy angered the prime minister by comparing Cambodia with Myanmar

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has delayed his return home from abroad as police prepare to arrest him.

Mr Rainsy is accused of defamation in a case that dates back seven years. He was stripped of parliamentary immunity from prosecution earlier on Monday.

He says he fears violence between his supporters and police and will return from a South Korea visit in a few days.

Last week Mr Rainsy angered Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying the ruling party would "derail" elections in 2018.

Political tensions have been rising despite a truce between the two politicians last year.

A warrant for Mr Rainsy's arrest was issued on Friday after he compared the success of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar's recent election with his own prospects for overthrowing the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen, who has held the job for more than 30 years, called him a "traitor's son".

Friday's warrant relates to a 2011 conviction against Mr Rainsy, then in self-imposed exile in France, for comments he made about the Cambodian foreign minister.

Mr Rainsy returned to Cambodia ahead of the July 2013 national election after receiving a royal pardon, although it was not immediately clear if the defamation conviction was part of the deal as he had been convicted of a string of offences.

His Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 of 123 seats in the 2013 polls but led months of street protests after accusing the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of rigging the vote.

A year-long parliamentary boycott ended in August last year after a deal was struck on election reform.

The BBC's South East Asia Correspondent Jonathan Head says the Cambodian veteran strongman's long hold on power is weakening as his government is beset by allegations of corruption and favouritism, in a country where most people are still trapped in chronic poverty.

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