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Over 40,000 Cambodian opposition supporters to rally for leader's return


14:15, July 14, 2013

PHNOM PENH, July 14 (Xinhua) -- More than 40,000 opposition supporters will hold a rally at the capital's airport next Friday to greet the return of their recently-pardoned leader Sam Rainsy, said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) here Sunday.

He unveiled the greeting plan during an election campaign at the Freedom Park in Phnom Penh City.

Sam Rainsy, CNRP's leader-in-exile, announced on his Facebook page on Saturday that he would arrive at the Phnom Penh International Airport on July 19 after receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni on Friday.

Sam Rainsy, 62, fled Cambodia in late 2009 before the court sentenced him to 11 years in prison in absentia on two charges-- removing border poles and publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam and accusing Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of being a member of the Democratic Kampuchea.

Hor Namhong said on Saturday that granting a royal pardon to Sam Rainsy was not due to international pressure, but Prime Minister Hun Sen's commitment towards national unification and a free, fair and democratic election on July 28.

Dr. Chheang Vannarith, lecturer of Asia Pacific Studies at the Leeds University in the Britain, said the return of Sam Rainsy before the elections would definitely reinforce the campaign of the opposition party.

"He could mobilize his supporters with faster speed," he told Xinhua. "There is an increase in popularity especially among the youth."

However, he said, undoubtedly, the opposition party could not defeat the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen in the upcoming polls.

Eight political parties will contest in the general elections with about 9.67 million eligible voters.

The two main parties are the ruling party of Hun Sen and the opposition party of Sam Rainsy.

Hun Sen's party is widely expected to win the majority in the forthcoming elections.

One of the world's longest-serving leaders, Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and vowed to stay in the post until he is 74.

During the last election in July 2008, Hun Sen's party won 90 out of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition group gained 29 seats.

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