Childhood & Early Life
Sam Rainsy was born on March 19, 1949 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His father was named Sam Sary, who had served as Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia in the 1950s. His mother was named In Em.
In 1965, his family moved to France after his mother was arrested and his father disappeared after government charges that he had been involved in an attempted coup d’état. He attended primary school in Paris, France before attending the prestigious ‘Lycee Janson de Sailly high school.
He graduated from ‘L'Institut d'etudes politiques’ in Paris, France with a degree in Political Science in 1971. He received a degree in Economics two years later, from the ‘Faculte de droit et des sciences economiques’ in Paris, France.
He received a degree in Accounting from the ‘French Ministry of Education’ in 1979. The following year, he was awarded a ‘Master of Business Administration’ from INSEAD in Fountainebleau, France.
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In 1989, he was elected by Prince Norodom Ranariddh to be his European representative. In France, he worked briefly as an investment banker before opening his own accounting firm.
In 1992, Rainsy joined the ‘Funcincpec Party’ in Cambodia. A year later, he was elected to the Parliament in Cambodia, representing Siem Reap Province, and served two years.
While in office, he served as the Minister of Economy and Finance of Cambodia from September 24, 1993 to October 24, 1994.
In 1994, he was expelled from the ‘Funcincpec Party’ after a vote of no confidence. Then he founded the ‘Khmer Nation Party’, a year later.
In 1997, he was injured during a grenade attack at a political rally. Close to sixteen people died and more than a thousand were injured in the attack.
In 1998, he was elected as a ‘Member of Parliament for Kampong Chan Province’, a position that he continues to hold today. The same year, he changed the name of the ‘Khmer Nation Party’ to the ‘Sam Rainsy Party’.
In 2005, he left Cambodia and was tried in absentia on a number of defamation charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni and on February 10, 2006 Rainsy returned to Cambodia.
In 2008, Rainsy published his autobiography 'Des racines dans la pierre: Mon combat pour la renaissance du Cambodge'.
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On October 25, 2009, he was charged with racial incitement and destruction of property for leading a protest at the border of Cambodia and Vietnam.
On January 1, 2010 he left Cambodia for France and an arrest warrant was issued for him. Two years later, he stepped down from the ‘Sam Rainsy Party’ to become the president of the ‘Cambodia National Rescue Party’.
In 2013, Rainsy co-authored his English-language autobiography 'We Didn't Start the Fire: My Struggle for Democracy in Cambodia'. The same year he toured the United States to raise funds towards supporting his political career in Cambodia.
In July 2013, King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned Rainsy, and he returned to Cambodia a week later.
In 2014, after a lengthy negotiation with several political parties in Cambodia, he was accepted as a member of parliament although he had not participated in the 2013 election. He was given the title ‘Minority Leader’ of the parliament, a position he currently holds.
Rainsy continues to be the most powerful opposition politician in Cambodia today.