Though Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s legal team has claimed that Funcinpec’s headquarters were sold partly to rid the royalist party offices of bad “feng shui,” harmony still proves elusive between Funcinpec and the prince’s new party.
As the March 13 start date approaches for Prince Ranariddh’s breach of trust trial for selling Funcinpec’s headquarters in late 2005, his Norodom Ranariddh Party has released thousands of copies of a document defending the sale.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said Thursday that the “white paper” on the sale has been presented to diplomats, NGOs and “intellectuals.”
“This is a campaign to show the public the truth,” he said.
The paper states that Prince Ranariddh “championed the move” of Funcinpec’s headquarters in Phnom Penh because the compound next to the French Embassy was too small and the location was “not well positioned according to Feng Shui”—the ancient Chinese practice of arranging objects to achieve harmony with the natural energy of the universe.
“His vision was shared with the Board of Directors of the Party during various meetings and has received unanimous support,” the paper continues.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court in December charged Prince Ranariddh with breach of trust for allegedly selling Funcinpec’s headquarters for his own benefit.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay filed a complaint to the court in November, accusing Prince Ranariddh of selling the headquarters for $3.6 million and pocketing the proceeds.
The white paper names Nhiek Bun Chhay and Funcinpec’s new President Keo Puth Rasmey as having helped broker the property sale and “the best possible deal for the party” over a period of more than two years.
From the sale, $2.4 million was deposited into a bank account of the Ly Chhuong Construction and Import Export Co Ltd, which purchased the Funcinpec headquarters on the condition that Ly Chhuong would be the contractor for construction of the party’s new headquarters in Dangkao district, the paper says.
The remaining $1.2 million from the sale was then given to Funcinpec’s construction committee to cover the purchase of 10 hectares of land in Dangkao district, the final cost of which was $1,204,907, according to the paper.
“This money did not go through nor [was it] given to Samdech Krom Preah [Prince Ranariddh] as alleged in a lawsuit by Mr Nhiek Bun Chhay,” the paper adds.
“We want the public and diplomats to see that the prince is innocent,” Prince Ranariddh’s lawyer Liv Sovanna said Thursday.
Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment.
Funcinpec on Thursday issued a statement calling the dissemination of the white paper an attempt to “cheat” members of Funcinpec and the national and international public, characterizing the release as a last-ditch effort by the prince to avoid “legal punishment and embarrassment” once he returns from France.
“On March 13, 2007, the national and international public and members of Funcinpec will find out exactly who is responsible after the court hears the case about the breach of trust,” the Funcinpec statement reads.
Funcinpec also warned the NRP to “immediately stop” using language that insults senior Funcinpec officials lest the party be driven to file “another legal action.”
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, second deputy president of Funcinpec, denied Thursday that Prince Ranariddh discussed the deal with Funcinpec’s 200 board members before selling the headquarters.
“The prince sold the headquarters secretly, he didn’t discuss with us,” he said.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said that Prince Ranariddh is using feng shui as an excuse for selling the party’s headquarters.
“The leadership is weak if it blames feng shui,” he said, adding that Prince Ranariddh should be blamed instead.
Mar Sophal, monitoring officer with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the white paper, as well as a massive rally at Olympic Stadium planned for March 6, are part of a two-fold NRP strategy: to attract supporters and prevent the prince’s arrest on his return to Cambodia.