NRP Plans Protest Against Funcinpec’s Lawsuit

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.)


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