Retired King Norodom Sihan-ouk issued a statement, suggesting that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh restore parliamentary immunity to the three opposition lawmakers who were stripped of protection last week, and to pardon them for any perceived wrongdoing.
In an letter dated Thursday and bearing the official royal insignia, Norodom Sihanouk outlined his plan to the two leaders for their “wise and clear-minded” decision.
“[A]s good Buddhists and as well-advised Statesmen, declare that You decide to grant Your pardon to those who have done You wrong and have done unjust acts in Your regard,” he wrote.
“Second, You give back the parliamentary immunity to the Deputies who have just been deprived of it,” he added.
The three opposition lawmakers, party leader Sam Rainsy, Cheam Channy, and Chea Poch, had their immunity removed in a controversial decision by the Assembly on Feb 3.
Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch fled to the US, while Cheam Channy was arrested by military police and remains detained on accusations of forming an illegal armed force.
Both Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch face defamation lawsuits launched by Funcinpec for accusing Prince Ranariddh of taking bribes.
In his message Thursday, Norodom Sihanouk also recommended that King Norodom Sihamoni, as Supreme Commander of RCAF, give his official pardon to Cheam Channy. That pardon would allow him to return to the Assembly, Norodom Sihanouk said.
The result of such measures, in the interests of “national Recon-ciliation,” would see the Sam Rainsy Party remain as opposition within the parliament, he said.
Funcinpec and CPP officials welcomed the retired king’s suggestions on Friday, but said the final decision would be up to Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh.
“The royal message opened the door to the possibility of the problem resolution,” said CPP spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith. “But, which is the best way depends on our choice.” A pardon would be granted if Sam Rainsy agreed to stop making accusations against Prince Ranariddh, or if the court found the opposition lawmakers not guilty, Khieu Kanharith said.
“Usually we have no right to interpret what the [retired] King says, but personally, I respect and support His Majesty’s…royal message,” Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said.
The Military Court announced it would not release Cheam Channy on bail on Friday, citing a need for further investigation, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Mao Sophearith said he will seek his client’s release at the Appeals Court.
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul and Wency Leung)