NRP Defends Ranariddh in Breach of Trust Case

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.

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