National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh escalated his assault on the opposition party with threats of yet another lawsuit on Monday and issued a letter with Prime Minister Hun Sen refusing to restore immunity to the three opposition parliamentarians stripped of protection this month.
Prince Ranariddh, who is Funcinpec president, told reporters at the Assembly on Monday that his party will file a new defamation suit against opposition leader Sam Rainsy for calling Funcinpec a “parasite party.”
Funcinpec already has lawsuits pending against Sam Rainsy and his fellow opposition lawmaker Chea Poch for accusing Prince Ranariddh of taking bribes.
“I will not drop the lawsuit, but I will [file] another lawsuit,” Prince Ranariddh said.
He also lambasted Sam Rainsy for fleeing the country after the Assembly voted to strip him, Chea Poch and parliamentarian Cheam Channy of their immunity on Feb 3.
Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch are currently in self-imposed exile in the US, lobbying for Western donors to help them return to parliament, while Cheam Channy is being detained by the Military Court on allegations of organizing a so-called illegal armed force.
“[Sam Rainsy] created the problem and fled the country,” Prince Ranariddh said. “He defamed me in front of the whole world, [and] as a lawmaker, he has asked foreign countries to pressure us.”
“How cheap a Cambodian,” the prince added.
In a joint letter addressed to retired King Norodom Sihanouk, dated Friday, Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen said they would not back down on their legal battles with the opposition party.
The letter came in response to Norodom Sihanouk’s suggestion that the two pardon the three lawmakers for any perceived wrong-doing.
“To withdraw lawsuits from each other, this is very unjust…. The lawsuits are in the hands of the court,” Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh wrote.
“Related to [the suggestion of] restoring immunity to the three lawmakers, we think that the restoration of immunity cannot be given through only the two of us,” they said, adding that such a move would be up to the courts and the Assembly to decide.
Norodom Sihanouk replied to the two leaders in a letter Saturday, saying he “respects the idea of the two Samdechs.”
On Sunday, the Sam Rainsy Party had signaled its intent to drop its own lawsuits against Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen in the hope that their colleagues’ parliamentary immunity would be restored.
The party is charging that Prince Ranariddh was responsible for corruption in the construction of the new Assembly building and accuses Hun Sen of being behind the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition-led rally in Phnom Penh.
But following Prince Ranariddh’s threat Monday, Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said the party has reversed its decision.
“We will continue our lawsuits,” Eng Chhay Eang said, adding, “Both Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen have never complied with the retired King’s idea.”
Ahead of his abdication last year, Norodom Sihanouk had expressed frustration over the ruling parties for rejecting his mediation in the post-July 2003 election deadlock.