She could be deported to Cambodia, where she would face charges and likely jail time, or back to the United States, as she holds a US passport.
A source with direct knowledge of Sochua’s detention in Kuala Lumpur told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry was working to assist Sochua and enable her release but some members of the Home Affairs Ministry “wants to please Cambodia” and so had detained the opposition leader.
Teddy Baguilat, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and former Philippines MP said “there is no legitimate reason for the government of Malaysia to detain her”.
“The only reason the Home Affairs ministry is doing this is to pander to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said.
“Deporting her to Cambodia would be a dangerous precedent. It hasn’t really been done in ASEAN before.”
Rachel Arinii, the East Asia and ASEAN program manager from rights group Forum Asia, urged the Malaysian government to immediately release Sochua.
“These acts of intimidation orchestrated by the Cambodian government, with support of other ASEAN governments, highlight the collusion among ASEAN leaders to suppress and harass critics, activists and opposition leaders,” she said.
Comment has been sought from Sochua and from the Malaysian Home Affairs ministry.
Two weeks ago Sochua was deported from Thailand and on Wednesday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Rainsy and his fellow opposition activists would be blocked from entering Cambodia overland from Thailand.
Prayut said that in keeping with the agreement of member countries of ASEAN not to interfere in each other’s domestic affairs, he had given an order that no resistance organisation would be allowed to operate on Thai territory.
“So, he won’t be able to enter Thailand,” Prayut said, referring to Sam Rainsy.
On Wednesday, Cambodia called on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help impose a current arrest warrant for the opposition leaders.
- with agencies
James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions, won a Kennedy Award for outstanding foreign correspondent and is the author of The Great Cave Rescue.