Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has expressed regret to Prime Minister Hun Sen for linking him to the 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful demonstration in Phnom Penh, according to a letter read out on several television stations on Friday evening.
A second letter reportedly signed by Hun Sen on Friday was also read out on both TV5 and Cambodian Television Network in which Hun Sen thanked Sam Rainsy, and said he was hopeful that Sam Rainsy would soon be able to return to Cambodia.
The broadcast came on the one-year anniversary of Sam Rainsy fleeing the country. On Dec 22, he was sentenced to 18 months in absentia for defaming Hun Sen over the grenade attack.
“I regret committing misbehavior toward Samdech Prime Minister like accusing Samdech Prime Minister of being behind the grenade attack,” Sam Rainsy wrote. “I will change my gesture to end all those problems and avoid such problems happening again,” he added. Opposition officials said the letter was genuine.
“Your letter seemingly ended the problem between your excellency and myself,” Hun Sen was quoted as saying by the stations. “The way you chose to solve this problem has brought me strong hope that your excellency will be able to return to your political life very soon.” Hun Sen also reportedly encouraged Sam Rainsy to resolve his differences with Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The news came on the day legal complaints, lodged in recent months against seven men over criticism of Hun Sen and the government relating to Cambodia borders, were officially withdrawn, a government lawyer said.
Complaints have been withdrawn against Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Kem Sokha, CCHR Deputy Director Pa Nguon Teang, Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun, Community Legal Education Center Director Yeng Virak, journalist Mam Sonando of Beehive Radio, Prince Sisowath Thomico and Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, said lawyer Suong Chanthan.
Criminal charges stemming from the lawsuits are still pending, the lawyer said.
“I withdrew the complaint against the seven people today,” he said. “They had acknowledged their wrongdoing. The Prime Minister always says that if they tone down and accept their wrongdoing, the prime minister will forgive them.”
Suong Chanthan said defamation lawsuits remain in place against Student Movement for Democracy Deputy Secretary-General Ir Channa, Cambodian Independent Civil Servants Association President Men Nath, Say Bory, an adviser to retired King Norodom Sihanouk, and Sean Pengse, president of Cambodia’s Border Committee.
Kem Sokha welcomed the withdrawal. “This is a good step moving to end the charge,” he said. “If the court maintains the charges, it shows that the court does not want to solve the problem,” he added.