Prince Ranariddh Accompanied by Private Plane in Exile

It may be small consolation, but Prince Norodom Ranariddh has at least had his personal aircraft join him in self-imposed exile in Malaysia.

Unwilling to return to Cambodia since the Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed him an 18-month prison sentence for breach of trust in March 2007, the prince asked in June that year that his aircraft in Phnom Penh be sent to him, according to documents publicized on CTN on Tuesday.

“Because I am not able to fly my plane in Cambodia, I would like your understanding to take my plane, which is my personal belonging, out of the country,” according to a letter from the prince to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

After receiving the aircraft, the prince sent a note of thanks to Hun Sen: “I hope that in the near future, I am able to return to the country like other citizens and pay respect to my parents.”

CTN news anchor Soy So­pheap, who revealed the private correspondence between the prince and the prime minister, said he had done so to defend Hun Sen’s reputation.

“I released the document because the prince accused Samdech Hun Sen of having no virtue,” Soy Sopheap said, adding that if the Norodom Ranariddh Party continues to levy accusations against the premier he would release more sensitive documents.

The NRP released a statement last week condemning the government’s decision to take back a colonial-era residence on the corner of Sothearos Boulevard and Street 178, which had been given as an unexplained gift from the CPP to the prince in 2005.

NRP spokesman Muth Chan­ntha said Tuesday that the plane in question was the personal property of the prince.

The plane, he added, was not the French-made, twin-engine Falcon XU-008 airplane that the SRP accused the prince of accepting in 2004 as payment in return for forming a coalition government with the CPP.

Prince Ranariddh had requested permission from Hun Sen to release the plane only as a courtesy, Muth Channtha said.

“It is the prince’s property and not Hun Sen’s property. I would like to request [Soy Sopheap] to release all the documents,” he said, adding that he believes Soy Sopheap was attacking the NRP because of his close relationship with the CPP.

Soy Sopheap denied on Tuesday that he was doing Hun Sen’s bidding.

“I don’t respond on behalf of Samdech Hun Sen,” he said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Tuesday by telephone that he wasn’t sure which of the prince’s planes Soy Sopheap was referring to, but that he believed it to be the aircraft given to him by the CPP back in 2004.

The plane controversy, as well as the dispute over the residence on Sothearos Boulevard, are both examples of the CPP using state property as gifts for politicians, Son Chhay added.

“It displays that the ruling CPP has been using state property and money…for their own benefit,” he said.

“The giving of state property to private individuals is illegal ac­cording to our law,” he said.

CPP National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel denied that his party had ever given bribes to politicians.

The multimillion-dollar colonial-era residence near the riverside and the Falcon aircraft were both gifts between coalition partners, Nguon Nhel said.

“The CPP is aligned with Fun­cinpec. The government coordinated it for the partner,” he said, adding that both sides made concessions in 2004 to end the political deadlock and form a coalition.

“We wanted to find a solution to end the deadlock,” he said.

“It is a rumor about the bribes to form the government. The plane has already been taken back,” he said.

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