Cambodian opposition leader in exile will be allowed to return

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been given a royal pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni, meaning that the bespectacled political figure will finally be able to return home after years of exile. 

Just in time for the July 28 elections, the pardon will permit Rainsy to campaign on behalf of the newly-formed Cambodia National Rescue Party, which is not expected to have much hope of defeating Prime Minister Hun Sen's powerful Cambodian People's Party. 

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"It is a small victory for democracy that the leader of the opposition be allowed to be in the country during election campaigning and on election day... much more remains to be done," Rainsy observed to AFP reporters.

Council of Ministers' spokesman Phay Siphan told the Phnom Penh Post that Hun Sen had signed off on the pardon Friday, "in the name of national reconciliation and stability."  

Rainsy fled the country in 2009 after he was convicted of criminal charges related to tampering with the border with Vietnam, as well as allegedly making less-than-polite comments about foreign affairs minister Hor Namhong.

To avoid a ten-year jail sentence, he has been spending the bulk of his time in France, although Rainsy regularly comments on political doings in his native country.