King in Tough Situation Over Rainsy Appeal

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s plea for a royal pardon places King Norodom Sihamoni in a delicate po­­l­itical situation, observers said on Monday.

Speculating that the King had left for Beijing over the weekend to con­sult his father, retired king Noro­dom Sihanouk, about the case, as well as to see his doctors, they said the King would have to struggle to maintain his neutral stance.

“It is not just personal, it’s really political,” said Committee for Free and Fair Elections Executive Di­rect­or Koul Panha. “Currently, he tries to play the neutral role, and that is very difficult in this context.”

Sam Rainsy requested the pardon on Dec 30, following his sen­tenc­ing in absentia to 18 months in prison for defaming Funcinpec Pres­­ident Prince Norodom Ran­ariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen. “The monarchy as an institution is in a dilemma,” Koul Panha said. “If he uses his right to pardon…and some state institutions ignore it or do not respond effectively, then what happens?”

But CPP Parliamentarian Chan Ven said granting a pardon was the King’s undeniable right—though it is still necessary to consult the government.

“Even the pardon for Ieng Sary also got request from the government,” he said. Then-king Noro­dom Sihanouk granted amnesty to former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary on two counts in Sep­tember 1996—exonerating him from a 1979 death sentence and de­claring him immune from a 1994 law outlawing the rebel movement.

“We continue to have hope that His Majesty will give the right decision using the power that he has, as his father has done in the past,” Sam Rainsy Party member Mu Sochua said.

Opposition lawmaker Yim So­vann added that the party and several NGOs were drafting petitions asking King Sihamoni to pardon not only Sam Rainsy, but also other activists who have been jailed or who have fled the country on de­famation charges.

“If the King does pardon him, that may mean some hope for the other activists,” said Ou Virak, Cam­bodian Center for Human Rights spokesman.

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)



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