The Latest: Sam Rainsy affirms determination to return home

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Latest on the attempted return of opposition politicians to Cambodia (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

Exiled Cambodian opposition politician Sam Rainsy has made an online broadcast affirming his determination to return home to lead a movement to oust the long-serving leader, despite being stopped from boarding a plane from Paris to Bangkok, from where he planned to cross into Cambodia on Saturday.

He said on Facebook Live that he and fellow leaders of his banned Cambodia National Rescue Party have not changed their plans for a return, which is opposed by their political foe, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy advised his 4.8 million Facebook followers not to be disappointed, and accused Hun Sen of being scared to allow him to return.

Thailand has barred Sam Rainsy's entry and Malaysia has limited the freedom of movement of his party members at the apparent request of Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy said party leaders are seeking another way to make their return.


6:30 p.m.

A Thai Airways employee says exiled Cambodian opposition politician Sam Rainsy was not allowed to board a flight from Paris to Bangkok because his booking was not valid.

Sam Rainsy had vowed to return from exile in France to Cambodia on Saturday to lead a movement to force long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen from office.

The employee of the Thai flag carrier at Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport, who answered a telephone call but declined to give his name, said a valid ticket had not been issued in Sam Rainsy's name and the economy class section for Thursday's flight was full. He said a booking in Sam Rainsy's name had been made for a new flight on Saturday.

Sam Rainsy had posted a photo on his Facebook page of what he said was his ticket which showed he had a confirmed booking for the Thursday flight. The photo also showed his booking reference and ticket number, opening the possibility that it could be changed online by a third party.

He told reporters at the airport that Thai Airways "said they had received from very high up the instruction to not allow me to board."

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand.


6:15 p.m.

A Malaysian rights commissioner says the government will release senior Cambodian opposition official Mu Sochua and two other activists.

Human Rights Commission member Jerald Joseph says authorities are preparing the papers and will allow Mu Sochua and two youth activists from her outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party to remain in the country. He didn't give further details.

Mu Sochua was detained Wednesday night and the other two on Monday. The release was surprising because Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier said Malaysian doesn't want to be used as a base for political activists.

A member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Teddy Baguilat, welcomed their release and urged Thailand to follow Malaysia's example by allowing the Cambodian party's leader, Sam Rainsy, to enter Thailand.

He said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen "should get the message loud and clear that his persecution of the political opposition will not be exported wherever he wishes it to be."


6 p.m.

Cambodia's most prominent opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, says he was not allowed to board a Thai Airways flight from Paris to Bangkok in his attempt to return home from self-imposed exile to challenge his country's longtime leader.

Sam Rainsy told reporters on Thursday at Charles De Gaulle Airport that the Thai flag carrier "said they had received from very high up the instruction to not allow me to board."

Sam Rainsy, who has been living in France, says he's ready to risk imprisonment or death by returning to Cambodia to unseat Prime Minister Hun Sen, an autocratic leader who has clamped down on opposition.

He said his travel has been blocked by "Hun Sen, the Cambodian dictator who has asked to put pressure on neighboring countries to block my return to Cambodia."

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand.


5 p.m.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia doesn't want to be used as a base for political activists from the region, after the No. 2 official of a banned Cambodian opposition party was detained at the airport as she and other exiles planned a return to their homeland in a challenge to an autocratic leader.

Mahathir's stand mirrored that of Thailand, which this week also barred the Cambodian opposition officials from transiting through the country. They said they want to spark a popular movement to oust long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has clamped down on his opponents.

Cambodian officials have repeatedly warned that if the opposition leaders did make it back, they would immediately be arrested. Most if not all have convictions or charges pending against them, including inciting armed rebellion despite their avowedly nonviolent intentions.

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