King Wants Clemency for Protesters

King Norodom Sihanouk has requested that Prime Minister Hun Sen extend clemency to the president and deputy president of the Khmer Front Party, whose peaceful Aug 31 demonstration was violently quashed and then called a threat to security by authorities.

In a letter dated June 17, King Sihanouk wrote that his help was sought by the Khmer Front Party, “so I would like to ask Samdech [Hun Sen], head of the government, please forgive these two people.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Tan Senarong is investigating claims by Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and police that Khmer Front Party members injured two police officials during their protest of the CPP’s victory in the July 27 national elections.

Tan Senarong said Sunday that he will consider a criminal case against the party after questioning its Deputy President Sun Sokun­mealea today.

Police complained that members of the nationalistic, anti-communist group broke the leg of one officer and the wristwatch of another, according to Khmer Front Party President Suth Dina, who was questioned Thursday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that Hun Sen would not be able to carry out the King’s wishes.

“Hun Sen cannot pardon someone, and Hun Sen cannot interfere in the court,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith also denied that the CPP pressed Suth Dina to join its ranks, as the Khmer Front president alleged last week.

“The CPP has many good officials. We don’t need him because he is a leader of a small party,” he said.

Tan Senarong said Sunday that he had not yet seen King Sihanouk’s letter to Hun Sen and could not comment on its influence.

Reached by telephone, Kep Chuktema declined to comment on the King’s intervention as well.

Suth Dina said Sunday that he expected authorities to fulfill the monarch’s request, but he would like the investigation and his exculpation to continue.

“My party is only the victim,” he said.

Suth Dina asked that Tan Senarong rule on the case fairly and not be influenced by political leaders.

Shortly after the demonstration, which was stopped by police officers wielding electric batons, King Sihanouk wrote that he was “very worried” by the event.

At the time, he asked that Hun Sen and the government “please have pity on these grandchildren,” 19 of whom were detained by police overnight and forced to thumbprint pledges to not demonstrate again.

Cambodia’s Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to non-violent demonstration, but the municipality, citing security concerns, has granted few permits for lawful protests since last year’s anti-Thai riots.

The city’s suppression of public demonstrations has been criticized by opposition and Funcinpec politicians, human rights groups and the King.

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