Sam Rainsy Writes King Asking for Pardon

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote to King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday requesting a royal pardon, following his sentencing earlier this month in absentia to 18 months in jail for defaming Funcin­pec President Prince Norodom Ran­­a­riddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Informing the King that he would not appeal against the Dec 22 ruling, where he was also or­dered to pay around $14,000 in fines and compensation, Sam Rain­sy wrote: “My fate finds itself consequently entirely in the hands of my Sovereign, King of all Cambodians and symbol of national unity.”

“I humbly ask a royal pardon so as to be able to return to Cambodia and serve my county as an elected representative of the Khmer people,” he wrote.

The Royal Palace declined comment Friday, but government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said that under the Constitution the King has the right to pardon to anyone. Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said that according to his understanding of the Constitution, the King can grant pardons if the government agrees. But he added that the person in question would usually have to serve two thirds of his jail sentence first, and the pardon would depend good behavior in prison.

Cheam Yeap accused Sam Rain­sy of being a troublemaker who has tested the patience of Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, whom he said are not generally inclined to treat people severely.

Kong Korm, acting opposition party president, said opposition officials in the Senate and National As­sem­bly have also written to the King asking a pardon.

It would not be unprecedented for the King to pardon a senior poli­ti­cian. On March 21, 1998, then-King Norodom Sihanouk granted a full pardon to Prince Ranariddh, after he was sentenced to 35 years in pris­on by the Phnom Penh Mil­itary Court earlier that month when it convicted him of plotting a coup with the Khmer Rouge and il­legally buying weapons.

Asked about whether Sam Rain­sy could be pardoned on similar grounds, Monh Saphan, a Funcin­pec lawmaker, said it depends on “the wisdom of the King.”


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