Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Cabinet chief on Tuesday decried as defamatory an article published in the French magazine “L’Express” this week which implicated the National Assembly president in bribery and corruption.
The article, titled “Pots-de-vin a Phnom Penh” or “Bribes in Phnom Penh,” detailed the basis for opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s legal battles against the prince. It noted the transfer of a Falcon 20E plane from Prime Minister Hun Sen to Prince Ranariddh ahead of the formation of their coalition government and inconsistencies in the bidding process for the construction of the new National Assembly building.
In response to the article, Noranarith Anandayath, cabinet chief for the prince, accused Sam Rainsy of spreading false information about Prince Ranariddh throughout the various countries the opposition leader is visiting.
“What L’Express said is defamatory and Sam Rainsy is defaming the prince from one place to another,” he said. “What [Sam Rainsy] says is not true. He has just made up these accusations against the prince to get attention for himself.”
The article cited documents obtained by L’Express, alleging to show the transfer of the Falcon 20E plane, calling it a “modest gift” to the prince.
It also reported that the company 5 Gold Stars had offered to build the new Assembly for $13 million, about half the cost of the company that won the contract, which is owned by Ly Chhoung, a relative of construction committee president Cheam Yeap. Prince Ranariddh had signed the contract, L’Express claimed.
For making similar allegations about the transfer of the plane, Sam Rainsy was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on Feb 3, opening the way for Prince Ranariddh to proceed with a defamation suit against him.
Sam Rainsy filed a countersuit, claiming the prince is responsible for corruption in awarding the construction contract to Ly Chhoung.
In a statement dated Saturday, the construction committee denied any corruption in its awarding of new Assembly contract.
“The construction committee would like to deny the groundless allegations,” the statement read. “This is political revenge from the individual Sam Rainsy.”
Repeated calls to Cheam Yeap went unanswered Tuesday.
Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang on Tuesday dared Prince Ranariddh to bring the case to a French court.
“The French court is independent,” he said.