Retired King Norodom Sihanouk wrote to the parents of two men convicted of killing Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea, saying he believes their sons are innocent and regrets that he cannot help them.
In a letter obtained Tuesday, Norodom Sihanouk said he was responding to correspondence from the parents of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who have been in prison since Jan 28, 2004, for killing Cambodia’s most prominent unionist.
“I myself think that Mr Sok Sam Oeun and Mr Born Samnang are not murderers, and my personal supreme council informed me that this problem is very complicated,” Norodom Sihanouk wrote in the letter, dated May 9.
“Therefore, please understand me that I have already retired and truly regret that I have no power and ability to help you with this problem,” he added.
Norodom Sihanouk also said he would be giving $1,000 of his own money to each family.
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun lost their appeal at the Appeals Court on April 12, though many believe they are innocent.
Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, on Tuesday urged King Norodom Sihamoni to pardon both men.
“I appeal to the king to give the pardon to Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun,” he said. “According to our law the king could provide a pardon.”
National Assembly and CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin said that Norodom Sihanouk’s letter will not affect the way the case is handled.
“[The retired king] expressed sorrow that they are not the real killers, but it is up to the court,” he said. He added that King Sihamoni could pardon the two men, but only if Prime Minister Hun Sen asks him to do so.
Royal Palace Cabinet Member Oum Daravuth could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
On Saturday, the Norodom Ranariddh Party delivered a petition to the King seeking a pardon for Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier this year over the sale of Funcinpec’s headquarters.
Sok Sam Oeun’s father, Vuon Phon, 63, said he had received the retired king’s letter, along with the $1,000, on Saturday.
“I understand that even his majesty [the retired king] cannot help us, but that he supports us fully,” he said, adding that Norodom Sihanouk has given a total of $1,700 to his family.
Born Samnang’s mother Nuon Kimsry said she also received the letter and the money, and that she will continue pushing for her son’s release.
“I am always requesting an intervention for my son,” she said.
Both Vuon Phon and Nuon Kimsry said they have also written to King Sihamoni and Hun Sen requesting that their sons be pardoned.
John Ritchotte, chief technical adviser for the International Labor Organization, said the men are innocent and that his organization would welcome a pardon from King Sihamoni.
“There is in fact no credible evidence to continue their imprisonment,” he said, but added that releasing Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun would not be enough.
“More importantly, we would like an investigation into the actual killing [to] be carried out properly and the actual killers be brought to justice,” he said.
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said he could reinvestigate the case, but only if there was an order from National Police Chief Hok Lundy or a court prosecutor.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said there is no need for a new investigation, as Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are guilty.
“If they were not the killers, the court would not have jailed them,” he said.