The Norodom Ranariddh Party announced its intention Wednesday to hold a 10,000-strong demonstration in Phnom Penh to protest the breach of trust lawsuit filed by Funcinpec against Prince Ranariddh.
According to a statement released by the NRP, the mass demonstration “is to protest against the unjust act of the unjust accusation by the Funcinpec party’s new leadership.”
“We want to show that…the court is politically biased,” NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said.
In its lawsuit, Prince Ranariddh’s former party alleges that he sold the party’s headquarters in 2005 for personal benefit, creating a criminal breach of trust.
The NRP’s threat to protest publicly comes just three days after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant asking police to apprehend Prince Ranariddh and escort him to the court for questioning on his return to Cambodia.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment Wednesday, nor could municipal court Deputy Director Ke Sakhorn, who is the investigating judge on the case.
Funcinpec Second Deputy President Prince Sisowath Sirirath laughed when told about the planned demonstration, but declined to comment on the court case or the likelihood of the NRP successfully gathering so many supporters.
Muth Channtha said that among the demonstrators will be former members of Funcinpec’s national council that were witness to the November 2005 party congress, where he claimed the decision to sell the headquarters was ratified.
“They are the important witnesses of the voting that approved the sale and transfer of the Funcinpec party’s headquarters,” he said, adding that they could prove Prince Ranariddh’s innocence in the matter.
Muth Channtha added that the party had not yet picked a date or place for the demonstration, nor had it informed the Interior Ministry or City Hall of its intentions.
“There is nothing that we have to ask for the permission,” he said. “There is nothing that the state can do to ban it,” he added.
According to the Law on Demonstrations, approval must be sought from the municipal authorities at least three days before a proposed demonstration. Any demonstration that “might affect public peace, order or security, however, are absolutely forbidden,” the law states.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that City Hall was ultimately responsible for deciding whether the protest could proceed, but added that if the demonstration is on the streets it should not be allowed.
“If they walk on the street, it affects public order—it must be forbidden,” he said.
Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatavong had not heard of the NRP’s plan, but said that he had no problem with the demonstration so long as it complies with the law.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the NRP should not try to politicize the case, adding that the lawsuit is between Funcinpec and Prince Ranariddh alone.
Instead of public protests, the NRP should deal with the court by finding a good lawyer for their president, he added.
(Additional reporting by John Maloy.)