Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that the government will not accept two airplanes from Prince Norodom Chakrapong as payment for his $1.36-million debt to the Finance Ministry, and that the prince may have to forfeit his houses instead.
Prince Chakrapong on Wednesday offered to hand over two planes to the government, after Hun Sen ordered lawyers to investigate the prince’s debt, racked up while he was chairman of the now-defunct Royal Phnom Penh Airways.
“I heard that he has two airplanes. We would not accept them even to turn them into cooking pots,” Hun Sen said during a groundbreaking ceremony in Kandal province. “We can take his houses,” he added.
Hun Sen denied that his move against Prince Chakrapong, who is acting president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, was politically motivated.
“When the government wants to ask for its money back, they claimed it is political. The ultimatum has passed and he has not refunded [the money],” Hun Sen said.
The Finance Ministry presented Prince Chakrapong in March 2006 with the $1.36 million bill for unpaid fees and taxes on his airline, which folded in 2005.
Prince Chakrapong could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, on Wednesday he said that the debt had been raised for political reasons. He also said that the government is trying to force royals out of politics altogether.
Hun Sen also reiterated Thursday that he will not request a pardon for NRP President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and denied that his trial was subject to political interference.
The municipal court on Tuesday sentenced Prince Ranariddh to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay $150,000 for selling Funcinpec’s headquarters.
“With everything, they claim it is politics,” Hun Sen said.
Noranarith Anandayath, Prince Ranariddh’s special adviser, said that King Norodom Sihamoni has full rights to grant amnesties and to reduce sentences without being asked by Hun Sen. “I request Prime Minister Hun Sen not to block us if there is a request from Norodom Ranariddh Party officials for a pardon,” he said.