Self-exiled Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy has landed in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur after promising to return home to rally opponents of authoritarian ruler Hun Sen.
"Keep up the hope. We are on the right track," Rainsy said on arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in a message to supporters. "Democracy will prevail. Democracy has prevailed in Malaysia. Democracy will prevail in Cambodia."
Asked whether he planned to return to Cambodia he said: "I cannot say anything. I do not deny, I do not confirm."
The veteran opposition figure had planned to return to Cambodia on Saturday, Independence Day, in what Prime Minister Hun Sen characterised as an attempted coup against his rule of more than three decades.
But Sam Rainsy was blocked from boarding a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok in Paris on Thursday. He and other leaders of his banned opposition party have said they want to return to Cambodia by crossing the land border with Thailand.
Malaysia has no border with Cambodia.
An official of Rainsy's banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Thailand said that nobody would be returning on Saturday.
"We will be returning as soon as possible," Saory Pon, General Secretary of the Cambodia National Rescue Party Overseas told Reuters, complaining that some party officials in Thailand had been harassed and followed by security services.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said that if Sam Rainsy did return he would face outstanding charges against him in court.
"If he comes to cause instability and chaos, we will destroy him," he said.
Some 50 opposition activists have been arrested in recent weeks.
In Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, security forces patrolled in pickup trucks on Saturday, which marks Cambodia's 66th anniversary of independence from France. On Sunday and Monday, Cambodia celebrates an annual water festival.
Australian Associated Press