Prince Norodom Ranariddh has begun a European tour to try and rally opposition to his breach of trust conviction, and to urge European governments to reconsider their support to Cambodia’s judiciary, an adviser to the prince said.
Prince Ranariddh, president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, is currently in Belgium to meet representatives of the European Parliament, and will then continue on to Spain, Portugal, Germany and France, Ok Socheat said.
“The prince will inform the people that his court case was politically motivated and that European countries are spending money on the judicial system that is such a waste of money,” Ok Socheat said.
The prince will not ask the European Union to cut off aid to Cambodia as long as he is allowed to return to the country, Ok Socheat said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on March 13 sentenced Prince Ranariddh to 18 months in prison in absentia over the sale of Funcinpec’s headquarters. On Sunday, the court announced that he has also been charged for breaking the controversial monogamy law over his alleged extramarital activities.
The British Embassy has concerns about the timing, legitimacy and speed of the prince’s trial, an embassy spokesperson wrote in an e-mail Monday.
“We are concerned too about the potential effects on the Cambodian democratic process, given the 18-month sentence effectively rules out the Prince from playing any part in both the 2007 commune elections and the 2008 national assembly elections,” the spokesperson said.
Britain believes it is essential that the elections are, and are seen to be, free, fair, peaceful and accepted, the spokesperson said. “If not, Cambodia’s democratic and economic development could be set back many years,” the spokesperson added.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that the court is independent, and that Prince Ranariddh should appeal his case in Cambodia rather than sullying the country’s reputation abroad.
“There is only one way for the prince: to request a pardon from either [King Norodom Sihamoni] or the National Assembly. That is a better solution,” Cheam Yeap said.
Ke Sakhorn, deputy director of the municipal court, said that Prince Ranariddh is criticizing the court because he feels bitter after being convicted legitimately.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said he doubted EU officials would believe what the prince has to say.
The EU is unlikely to halt any aid to Cambodia because the prince’s legal problems concern himself alone, Nouv Sovathero said.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the government is using the courts to deal with political issues, and that the EU may be able to help.
“It is a habit in Cambodia that there must be intervention from the international community [to resolve] political problems,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Tomei)