Prince Thomico Is Said To Have Left Cambodia

Prince Sisowath Thomico, special secretary to retired King Nor­odom Sihanouk, was reported to have left the country Tuesday after pledging Monday to stay in Cam­bodia and launch a hunger strike if he were detained on defamation char­ges filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A high-ranking CPP official and a police official confirmed that Prince Thomico had left the country on Tuesday morning.                                     The police official said he left on a flight from Phnom Penh Inter­na­tion­­­al Airport to Bangkok. The prince’s ultimate destination, how­ev­er, could not be verified.

“He is in a safe place,” said one Roy­al Palace official when asked whe­­ther the prince had left the coun­try. The official refused to confirm whe­ther the prince was in­deed abroad.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a stri­­d­ent speech Monday in Kom­pong Cham province, referred to Prince Thomico by name and threa­tened him with a lawsuit and pri­son.

“Now we are considering suing Sis­owath Thomico, who is the cou­sin of the current King,” Hun Sen said. “Even [a royal family member] is sued.”

Hun Sen is often more circumspect about naming critics directly.

“You have no immunity,” Hun Sen said of Prince Thomico. “If you cannot answer, you, prince, go to Prey Sar [prison],” the premier added, referring to arguments he suggested would be put for­ward to defend himself against bor­der critics.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Pro­secutor Ouk Savouth confirmed that a lawsuit was filed Mon­day against Prince Thomico but declined to comment further.

Hun Sen has launched several defamation lawsuits related to the border issue against opposition critics. Radio station owner Mom So­nando and Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Indepen­dent Tea­chers’ Associa­tion, have al­ready been detained.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment on whether security officials had received a warrant for the prince’s arrest, referring questions to court officials, who also declined to comment.

Mu Sochua, an opposition cabinet member, said she last talked with Prince Thomico at about 8:30 pm Monday, when she asked whe­ther he was sure he wanted to stay in Cambodia and carry through with his planned hunger strike.

“He said he was sure and that was it,” she said. “In the morning I wanted to talk to him but there was no more communication.”

Prince Thomico’s phone was turned off Tuesday, and he did not reply to an e-mail sent to him that afternoon.

In an interview Monday, the prince said the decision to write about the border issue was his own. “So far, nobody ever suggested that I do anything,” Prince Thomico said.

“[Retired] King Sihanouk as well as Queen Mother Monineath have been trying for months to restrain me from writing anything that could make the government angry against me,” he said.

“I was a soldier in the ’70s, and when I went on operations with my soldiers, I never had the idea of running away,” Thomico al­so said, referring to his service as a soldier for the Khmer Republic.

“There is no way for me to have a different fate from my compatriots,” he added.

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

 

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