Malaysian authorities detained the deputy chief of Cambodia's banned opposition party, Mu Sochua, on Thursday November 7th after Phnom Penh accused her of seeking to return home to conduct a coup against Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sochua flew into Kuala Lumpur on her American passport and was being detained at the airport.
She would not be turned over to Cambodia but would instead be deported to an as yet unspecified third country, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday.
Sochua, 65, is one of several opposition leaders who escaped from Cambodia fearing arrest and are now seeking to return home along with Sam Rainsy, the founder of the opposition party, to rally support for their cause.
Rainsy also prepared to fly from Paris to Bangkok, vowing to return to Cambodia on Saturday November 9th to lead demonstrations against Sen’s one-party rule.
A United States government spokesperson said that the US was aware of the situation, but he would not comment further due to privacy restrictions.
A former women's minister, Sochua is vice president of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and one of the highest-profile opposition leaders detained in Sen's efforts to prevent their return.
On Wednesday November 6th, she held a news conference in Indonesia to denounce oppression by Cambodian authorities, who have arrested at least 48 opposition activists this year and in recent weeks deployed troops along the borders.
"What do they fear?" she asked, "They totally fear the determination of the people of Cambodia, who are responding positively to our appeal, which is that together we will build a better Cambodia." She later flew to Malaysia, where she was detained.
In 2017, she left Cambodia amid a mass clampdown on the opposition. The party's leader, Kem Sokha, was also arrested on charges of treason and remains under house arrest.