PM Says He’ll Sue Prince, Threatens Jail

Prime Minister Hun Sen an­nounced in a fiery speech in Kompong Cham province Mon­day that he has filed a lawsuit related to the border is­sue against Prince Sisowath Thom­­­­­­ico, retired King Norodom Si­­ha­nouk’s personal secretary, adding that the prince would face the possibility of impri­s­on­ment.

Hun Sen suggested that he had filed the lawsuit in re­­s­ponse to a let­ter written by Prince Thom­­­ico and posted on Nor­odom Si­­­ha­­­­­nouk’s Web site about Koh Tral is­land, which has been at the center of the border de­bate.

“He said I signed off on the loss of the island,” Hun Sen said in the speech broadcast on state-controlled TV and radio.

“There is no leader in the world who is so bad—even if he is as bad as Pol Pot—that would rush to give away land to other countries,” he said.

“If you cannot defend yourself, you, prince, must go to Prey Sar [prison],” the premier warned.

“I sue them all,” Hun Sen added. “Now Thomico is included…. Princes, princesses, workers, farmers, all were born naked.”

Prince Thomico, in an interview Monday afternoon, said he did not fear the threat of arrest and would not flee the country, but would begin a hunger strike if he were detained by authorities.

“If I am arrested, I will accept. I won’t try to do anything against them,” he said, explaining that his “masters” were Norodom Siha­nouk and India’s Mahatma Gan­dhi. “But as soon as I am in jail, I will start a hunger strike.”

The prince, a French citizen, said he could seek protection from the French Embassy but in­sis­ted that he would refrain from do­ing so. He said he would tell his family in France of his decision to re­main in Cambodia by e-mail Mon­day evening.

“Mam Sonando has been ar­rested, Rong Chhun has been ar­res­ted, several others have been ar­rested,” he said. “If my people have to bear this fate, I will bear the same fate.”

Hun Sen warned in a speech Fri­­day that anyone who accused him of ceding Cambodian land would face lawsuits. Arrest warrants have since been issued for se­veral people accused of defaming him over the border issue.

Mam Sonando, head of inde­pen­dent Beehive Radio, was arrested last week, and Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Indepen­dent Teachers’ Associa­tion, was de­tained Saturday.

“Whatever I would say from abroad wouldn’t have the same weight,” Prince Thomico said when asked what he would gain by allowing himself to be imprisoned. “As long as you are not in the country, it is meaningless. But when you are in the country and you speak, it has a meaning.”

“I can still enjoy one or two days of freedom,” he added, laughing and speculating that he would be de­tained today at the soonest and Wed­nesday at the latest if an ar­rest warrant were issued.

He also said that he was not afraid of his fate because he had al­rea­dy outlived his parents, who he said were recalled to Cambodia from his father’s diplomatic posting in East Germany and killed by the Khmer Rouge.

“We are civil servants,” he mused. “And it’s OK if in doing our duty we meet with some bad luck, it’s OK.”

Government spokesman and Min­istry of Information Khieu Kan­­harith said: “The government is now preparing the legal papers to sue him.”

Once the papers were filed against Prince Thomico, the court would move quickly to act on them, Khieu Kanharith added.

Asked whether a warrant had been issued, Interior Ministry spokes­man Khieu Sopheak re­ferred the question to the court. A municipal court clerk declined com­ment, as did gov­ern­ment law­yer Suong Chan­than.

Prince Thomico also issued a statement to the French Embassy thanking France for its support of Cambodia, but also claiming that the French government had played a large role in creating the bor­der tensions when the Brevie line was demarcated in 1939. He pushed for the country to help re­solve the issue.

“This question profoundly di­vides Cambodian society,” he wrote in a statement addressed to French Ambassador Yvon Roe D’Albert. “As long as it is not definitively and peacefully resolved, it will be like a volcano that menaces not on­­ly peace in Cambodia but also relations with its Vietnamese neighbor.”

The French Embassy did not re­spond to a request for comment Monday evening.

Several Sisowath royalists distanced themselves from the prince’s comments Monday.

“It’s up to the prime minister,” Funcinpec Senator Prince Si­so­wath Sirirath said when asked about his cousin’s situation, saying he didn’t want to comment further be­cause of the sensitivity of the issue.

“Thomico is not talking on be­half of any other person but himself, I might or might not agree with him,” said Prince Sisowath Chi­vanmonirak, first vice chairman of the Senate.

Chivanmonirak said only King Norodom Sihamoni could speak on behalf of the royal family, ad­ding repeatedly that he would sue a reporter if he were misquoted.                        

(Reporting by Michael Cowden, Phann Ana and Pin Sisovann)

 

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