National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said on Friday he will accept opposition lawmaker Son Chhay’s request to meet this week to try to resolve the ongoing dispute between their two political parties.
“I agree to meet Excellency Son Chhay,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside the Assembly. But the prince, who is also head of Funcinpec, added that he is powerless to free jailed opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on Feb 3 and subsequently arrested on suspicion of forming an illegal armed force.
“I am not able to have Cheam Channy released or on probation,” Prince Ranariddh said.
“What I am able to do in the case of Cheam Channy is to forward the request of Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers [for his release] to the court. It should depend on the court’s decision then,” he said.
Son Chhay said Friday he hoped to meet with the prince “to end all the disputes.”
The Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec have launched several lawsuits against each other since the formation of the current government in July.
The opposition accuses Prince Ranariddh of being involved in corruption over the construction of a new Assembly building. Meanwhile, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his fellow lawmaker Chea Poch—both of whom were also stripped of their parliamentary immunity Feb 3—stand accused of defaming the prince for charging that he took bribes to form a coalition with the CPP.
Since the three opposition lawmakers were stripped of parliamentary protection, the Sam Rainsy Party has boycotted all Assembly and Senate meetings.
Despite Prince Ranariddh’s claim that he cannot interfere with Cheam Channy’s case, Son Chhay said Sunday that he will nevertheless try to negotiate for the lawmaker’s release in exchange for the opposition party’s end to their boycott.
At the military court on Sunday, court director Ney Thol maintained Cheam Channy must remain in detention pending trial.
“It is a criminal case, so we cannot release him on bail,” he said, adding: “This case is difficult because they are all lawmakers.”
Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said Sunday that Prince Ranariddh and Son Chhay are expected to meet today.