SRP members have started a petition to seek a Royal pardon for party President Sam Rainsy as well as the reinstatement of his parliamentary immunity, opposition official said yesterday.
The request addressed to King Norodom Sihamoni has so far collected more than 3,000 signatures or thumbprints from SRP commune, district and provincial councilors throughout Cambodia, party spokesman Yim Sovann said. He said officials in Prey Veng province have already sent more than 200 names of commune and district councilors to the King’s cabinet.
“They hope the King could help Sam Rainsy by giving his immunity back or pardoning him,” Mr Sovann said.
Mr Rainsy, currently living in Paris, faces charges of inciting racial discrimination and intentionally damaging property, stemming from his Oct 25 visit to Chantrea district’s Samraong commune in Svay Rieng province.
There, he criticized both Vietnamese and Cambodian officials for their handling of the border’s demarcation after villagers complained that they risked loosing their land. Mr Rainsy, whose immunity was stripped on Nov 16, also claims responsibility for uprooting six demarcation poles placed in a rice field.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has stated in the past that he will not ask for the opposition lawmaker to be pardoned, saying “Hun Sen has no reason to pardon Sam Rainsy before two-thirds of his jail time” is served.
Under the Cambodian Constitution, the King has the right to grant amnesty and pardons but has traditionally done so at the request of the prime minister. Such a request recently allowed the release of a Thai prisoner who was jailed for seven years for spying but was freed within days of his sentencing by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Keo Song, a councilor in Sithor Kandal district’s Ampil Krao commune in Prey Veng province, said she signed and sent her petition to the King on Jan 4, demanding Mr Rainsy’s return.
“I strongly believe that only the King has the right to pardon Sam Rainsy,” she said.
“I know that he is not wrong [even though] he was accused by the government of involvement in the demarcation posts in Svay Rieng. I want him to come back.”
Officials at the Royal Palace were unavailable for comment yesterday.
(Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)