King Norodom Sihamoni left Cambodia for Beijing this weekend without responding to opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s Thursday request for a royal pardon, a palace official said on Sunday.
Royal Palace Cabinet member Em Tham said that there had been no formal farewell because the King was traveling in a private capacity, in order to seek medical care and to visit his father, retired King Norodom Sihanouk.
“His Majesty is not well,” Em Tham said, suggesting that King Sihamoni had caught a cold on one of his many trips to the provinces.
The cabinet had received a letter from Sam Rainsy asking in French for a pardon, and a second letter from Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers writing on the opposition leader’s behalf, Em Tham confirmed. He said he was not aware of any response from the King as yet.
Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia on Dec 22 to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay a $14,000 fine as compensation for defaming Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Asked by e-mail about his request for a pardon, Sam Rainsy wrote on Sunday that it would be “premature” to comment. Acting Sam Rainsy Party President Kong Korm said the Sam Rainsy Party had received no response to its request.
“We cannot expect a response as fast as we wish,” he said.
But, he said, there was cause for optimism since politicians had been spared by royal pardons in the past. He noted that Prince Ranariddh, who was pardoned by then-king Sihanouk in 1998, was an example. “We don’t lose hope,” he said.