Hun Sen Rules Out a Pardon For Ranariddh

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Saturday that he will not request a royal pardon for Prince Norodom Ranariddh if he is convicted following his trial for breach of trust, which begins Tuesday.

While Hun Sen did not name the prince directly, he referred to a man who was previously pardoned following the factional fighting of July 1997, and who has written to King Norodom Sihamoni calling the current charges a­gainst him an injustice.

“He provokes problems again and again. This time the court must prosecute him, and then he will ask me again to [request a pardon] for him. This time I let him stay in jail,” Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“From today on, I stop requesting pardons. We must comply with the law. [Convicts] must serve two thirds of their prison terms,” he said.

Prince Ranariddh, who is outside the country, will be tried at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for allegedly selling Funcinpec’s headquarters for personal benefit in 2005—a charge he denies.

In March 1998, then-King Noro­dom Sihanouk granted a full pardon to Prince Ranariddh after he was sentenced earlier that month to 35 years in prison for plotting a coup with the Khmer Rouge and illegally buying and transporting weapons before the factional fighting incidents in 1997.

During two days of bloody battles in parts of the city in July 1997, forces loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen had routed troops loyal to then-First Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh.

Hun Sen said Saturday that if the prince is convicted this time and “provokes chaotic problems,” he will have to serve two thirds of his sentence. But if the prince is “calm,” Hun Sen said he will ask for him to be released on bail.

If the Norodom Ranariddh Party stages mass protests against the trial, as it has sought to, the court may take an even tougher stance, Hun Sen warned.

“[The NRP] wants to hold a demonstration. I don’t prevent you, but a demonstration would in­crease the criminal offense because they want to threaten the court,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen added that he had discussed the case with King Sihamo­ni and told him that the law must be applied to all people equally.

“Royal family members want to be able to do politics. If there is eq­uality to do politics, there is also equality to stay in prison,” Hun Sen said.

Ok Socheat, an adviser to Prince Ranariddh, claimed the prince will not return for his trial because his father, retired-King Sihanouk, has asked him not to. Petitions from party members telling the prince not to return have also prompted his decision, Ok Socheat said.

The legal action against Prince Ranariddh is aimed at preventing him from campaigning for April’s commune elections, he said. “If the court sentences [the prince] following the prime minister’s speech, it is biased,” he said.

Prince Ranariddh deserves am­nesty because he is not a criminal, Ok Socheat said.

“[Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister] Ieng Sary was granted amnesty, why not the prince?” he asked.

The NRP still hopes to protest in front of the municipal court, Ok Socheat added. “We don’t threaten the court. We just express our dissatisfaction.”

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Hun Sen’s speech will likely influence the court. The fairness of the commune elections will be tainted if Prince Ranariddh is unable to campaign, he added.

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