Hun Sen said Monday he has “closed the door” on discussions over whether to allow Prince Norodom Ranariddh to return home.
Although Hun Sen did not name the prince, it was clear to whom he was referring in a speech littered with comments directed at his political opponents given to 1,000 graduates at the National Education Institute.
“We have closed the door,” the prime minister said. “I told him the choice, which is the way to come back, but he refused. So I stopped talking to him. Hun Sen will not help…. If you send a letter, I will return it.”
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha denied the party has been courting Hun Sen’s help on behalf of their leader in exile, saying that the way for the prince to return is not through the premier.
“We must respect the constitution and the King. The King can grant a pardon—not the prime minister,” he said.
Muth Channtha claimed that Hun Sen was trying to influence the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the latest appeal of the prince’s 18-month prison sentence for breach of trust.
Hun Sen also took the SRP to task over comments made by Sam Rainsy in August saying that his party would be open to a coalition with the CPP following the 2008 election.
“If [the SRP] wins, you can do it alone. If you fail…I give you the opposition job,” he said. “Do not murmur to people that you will join the government.”
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang claimed the SRP never told people it wanted a coalition partnership. “It is not about the prime minister,” he said. “It is up to the people. If they vote for us, we will lead the government. No one can talk about the government before the election.”
Hun Sen reiterated that the CPP would continue working with Funcinpec, which he said had “reformed” since ousting Prince Ranariddh nearly a year ago.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said Hun Sen’s comments demonstrate the party’s independence. “It means that Funcinpec is not under the influence of the prime minister,” he said.
Nouv Sovathero added that Prince Ranariddh still stands a chance of returning if he goes through Funcinpec.
“Funcinpec has opened the door for the prince. At night we close the door, but we have duplicated a key for him,” he said.