Cambodia opposition chief Sam Rainsy barred from poll

Cambodia's newly returned opposition leader cannot be a candidate in upcoming polls, election authorities ruled Monday, rejecting his application to stand against strongman premier Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy, who was greeted by huge crowds on Friday after his return from self-imposed exile in France, "did not fulfil the conditions in the process of registering candidates," National Election Committee (NEC) president Im Sousdey said in a letter.

"Regarding the request to register your excellency's name, the NEC cannot include it based on the... electoral law," said the letter, in response to Rainsy's application on Sunday to be added to the list.

NEC officials have previously suggested that it was unlikely the opposition leader, who was removed from the electoral register late last year, would be able to stand in the July 28 polls under the current law.

Rainsy has reportedly warned of a backlash if he is barred from standing.

He is seen as the main challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for nearly three decades.

Until he received a surprise royal pardon this month, Rainsy had faced 11 years in jail if he returned to Cambodia after he was convicted in absentia on charges that he contends were politically motivated.

Following his return home he has already hit the campaign trail to spearhead his party's efforts to loosen Hun Sen's grip on power.