Sam Rainsy (Khmer: សម រង្ស៊ី [sɑːm reə̯̆ŋsiː]; born March 10, 1949) is a Cambodian politician who most recently served as the Minority Leader. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Kampong Cham from 1998 until his removal in 2015. He was previously the MP for Siem Reap from 1993 until 1995 when he was expelled from the National Assembly. A co-founder of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Rainsy was previously a member of the royalist Funcinpec Party and served as the Minister of Economy and Finance during Norodom Ranariddh's administration from 1993 until his sacking in 1994. In June 1995, he was expelled from the National Assembly, and formed the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), which changed its name before the 1998 elections to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) to avoid registration issues. From 2000 to 2002 and again from 2012 to 2014, Rainsy was the chairperson of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats.
Sam Rainsy went into self-imposed exile on February 3, 2005, citing fear of arrest after a vote in the National Assembly removed parliamentary immunity from himself and fellow SRP MPs Chea Poch and Cheam Channy. Rainsy faced multiple criminal defamation charges after accusing the Cambodian People's Party and Funcinpec of corruption in the formation of the current coalition government. He has also accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of involvement in the 2004 murder of SRP-affiliated union leader Chea Vichea.
In September 2010, Rainsy was tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison for charges widely believed to be politically motivated. In 2012, the Sam Rainsy Party merged with the Human Rights Party to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Following his resignation from the Sam Rainsy Party to lead the newly formed opposition party, Kong Korm succeeded him as party leader in November 2012. On July 12, 2013, King Norodom Sihamoni granted a royal pardon to Rainsy at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, allowing the opposition leader to return to Cambodia without threat of imprisonment, although he remained ineligible for candidacy in the 2013 general election. Rainsy returned to Cambodia on July 19, 2013 where thousands of his supporters waited along the roads. The CNRP gained 55 seats in the National Assembly although Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have denied these results and accused the ruling party of poll fraud. The opposition boycotted parliament in September 2013, until July 2014.
In 2016, Rainsy again left Cambodia after being charged with defamation and incitement for accusing Hun Sen's government of orchestrating the high-profile murder of political activist Kem Ley. In October 2016, Rainsy's request for a royal pardon was rejected by Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite the constitution giving the monarch the final say on pardons. In February 2017, Rainsy resigned as President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and left the party just four months before local elections and a year before the general election. As of February 20, 2017, he has been banned from political activity.
Sam Rainsy was born in Phnom Penh on March 10, 1949. He moved to France in 1965, studied there and then worked as an investment manager and executive director in a variety of Parisian financial companies. He became a member of the Funcinpec Party, and after returning to Cambodia in 1992 was elected a member of parliament for Siem Reap Province the following year. He became Minister of Finance, but was expelled from the party after losing a vote of no-confidence in 1994. In 1995, he founded the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), which changed its name before the 1998 elections to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) to avoid registration issues. In the 2003 elections, it polled 22% of the vote.
At that time, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh said it was "deeply concerned" that the government appeared to be trying to "silence the opposition". Other embassies, local and international organizations shared the same concerns. Sam was tried in absentia on 22 December 2005 in relation to the defamation lawsuits. The court sentenced him to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay around US$14,000 in fines and compensation. On 5 February 2006, Rainsy received a Royal Pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni at Prime Minister Hun Sen's request. He then returned to Cambodia on 10 February 2006.
In October 2009, Rainsy led local residents at the Cambodia-Vietnam border in a protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory, in which he was alleged to have encouraged villagers to uproot border markings he claimed to have been illegally placed by Vietnam. In 2009, Vietnam’s foreign ministry condemned Sam Rainsy’s actions and asked the government to protect the nations’ ongoing border demarcation process. The statement called Sam Rainsy’s act "perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries".
On October 25, Rainsy was charged with racial incitement and destruction of property, and the Cambodian parliament stripped Rainsy of his immunity from prosecution in November. Rainsy was issued a summons to appear in court for a hearing. On January 1, 2010, the Svay Rieng provincial court issued an arrest warrant for Rainsy after he failed to appear in court. Rainsy had fled the country at this point and was residing in France in self-imposed exile. He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni in July 2013 and returned to Cambodia on July 19, 2013.
In April 2014, Rainsy talked on the phone with Prime Minister Hun Sen, regarding the political deadlock which had gripped Cambodia since July 2013. Rainsy and Sen reached an agreement to hold early polls in February 2018 instead of the usual elections in July. The deal will be signed before the King but the opposition leader said it was only "80 percent completed" and had to wait for his deputy Kem Sokha to return from the United States. But CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha disagreed with the deal, saying he wants early polls to be held by 2016.
On July 22, 2014, the Cambodian political crisis ongoing since 2013 was officially ended in a deal reached between the CPP and CNRP. The opposition also agreed to accept their seats in parliament, thus ending the longest political deadlock in Cambodian history. The CNRP was also given leadership roles in parliament, with Kem Sokha as the first vice president of the National Assembly and other politicians chairing 5 of the 10 parliamentary commissions. Rainsy, who failed to register during the 2013 election, was accepted as an MP (for Kampong Cham) by the Election Committee, replacing Kuoy Bunroeun. Rainsy also proposed the National Assembly to formally recognize an official opposition and pushed for a full shadow cabinet. Such changes would allow him to debate directly with prime minister Hun Sen, similar to the British Westminster system.
On November 13, 2015, the Supreme Court of Cambodia issued an arrest warrant for Rainsy over a case dating back to 2008. Three days later, he was unanimously removed from the National Assembly by the Cambodian People's Party while facing several charges. On December 1, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court summoned Sam Rainsy in absentia to clarify a statement he posted to his Facebook account following a defamation complaint by parliamentary president Heng Samrin. Less than two weeks earlier, the same court had issued another summons for Sam Rainsy to appear for questioning over his alleged involvement in using a fake map to resolve a border dispute with Vietnam.
On February 11, 2017, Rainsy resigned as President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party following a proposed amendment by Prime Minister Hun Sen barring convicted criminals from leading a political party. His resignation was accepted by his party on February 12.
Sam Rainsy's father, Sam Sary, had served as a minister in the education, planning and finance portfolios before becoming a Deputy Prime Minister in Sihanouk's government in the 1950s. Sam Rainsy's mother, In Em, was said to be the first Cambodian woman to have completed the Baccalauréat exam. Sam Sary fled the country in 1959 when Sam Rainsy was ten for suspected involvement in the Bangkok Plot, while his mother was thrown into prison. Sam Rainsy's grandfather, Sam Nhean had served as the President of the Royal Council of Cambodia and was a prominent member of the Democratic Party in the 1940s.
Sam Rainsy is married to Tioulong Saumura (since 1971), who is also member of parliament for his current party, and has three children: Patrice Sam, Muriel Sam and Rachel Sam. Tioulong Samura's father, Nhiek Tioulong, was a military general who founded the Khmer Renovation party and briefly served as Prime Minister in 1962. His mother-in-law, former First Lady Measketh Samphotre, died in November 2016, aged 96. Both Sam Rainsy and his wife claim to have Chinese ancestry, the former having revealed that one of his great-great grandfathers was a Chinese immigrant, while Nhiek Tioulong revealed that he had a Chinese grandfather during a dialogue session with Zhou Enlai in 1954.Economics (Institut d'études politiques de Paris)
Business Administration (Master of Business Administration from INSEAD - Fontainebleau - France) - 1980.
Accounting (Diplôme d'études comptables supérieures issued by the French Ministry of Education) - 1979.
Economics (Maîtrise + Diplôme d'études supérieures de Sciences économiques de la Faculté de droit et des sciences économiques de Paris - Panthéon-Assas) - 1973.
Political Science (Diplôme de l'Institut d'études politiques de Paris) - 1971.
We Didn't Start the Fire: My Struggle for Democracy in Cambodia. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. 2013.