News of the royal pardon granted to deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and of the prince’s scheduled return, has been given a mixed reception among the ranks of the CPP and its political allies.
Analysts believe the decision may have exposed a simmering split in the party, with perceived moderates such as CPP President Chea Sim pressuring Second Prime Minister Hun Sen to appeal for the pardon, and hard-liners in the party disapproving of the pardon seemingly kowtowing to international opinion.
But even in the second prime minister’s camp, dissent is rife over the request and granting of the pardon.
Council of Ministers adviser Svay Sitha, known for his loyalty to the second prime minister, had little compunction Wednesday in expressing his personal oppostion to the pardon.
“I don’t agree with the pardon
…because this is a very bad example for our society,” Svay Sitha said. “If we pardon a serious criminal who staged a coup…why don’t we free all convicts from prison too and turn the prison into a five-star hotel?”
Phnom Penh First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara, also close to Hun Sen, said Wednesday that he agreed with the pardon as it can save the country from international isolation.
“If there are more troubles we will have no aid to reconstruct the nation,” he said. “If Prince Ranariddh is back to compete in politics and run in the elections in a democratic way, with no military confrontation, then he is welcome.”
Em Sam An, an influential secretary of state for the interior, was cagey about the issue of the prince’s pardon and return. “I cannot speculate about the Ranariddh issue now. But the problem is whether he admits his guilt or not,” he said, echoing Svay Sitha’s concerns.