Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government transferred ownership of a small passenger jet to Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in May, while the two leaders were engaged in back-channel talks on a new coalition government.
The transfer of a Falcon-20E from the central government to the prince is noted in a Council of Ministers document publicized in local media over the weekend and was confirmed Sunday by royalist Senator Nhiek Bun Chhay.
The prince, an aeronautics fanatic known to traverse the country by helicopter, received the plane from a private company in 1993 but lost it to the CPP during the factional fighting of 1997, Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
The plane has been left neglected in a Phnom Penh hangar since that time, he said.
“After Prince Norodom Ranariddh found out that the plane is not being used, he asked the prime minister if he could take it back,” he said.
“It is not bribery. It belongs to the prince,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
He added that the prince used state funds to renovate the aircraft, and thus it will be used by government officials.