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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ...despite more feuding

...despite more feuding

Second Premier Hun Sen has toughened his stance on any return of exiled Prince Norodom

Sirivudh, warning King Norodom Sihanouk not to make any "arbitrary" decisions

in favor of his half-brother who is planning to return home.

Hun Sen set new conditions to block amnesty for Sirivudh - an initiative taken by

Prince Ranariddh - saying that it could be given only if the latter has spent at

least two-thirds of his sentence in jail.

Although he acknowledged King Sihanouk's constitutional right to pardon convicts,

the second prime minister said that the King "can not act arbitrarily as he

wishes to."

"The court verdict can not be annulled by anyone. It will remain as it is now

and any attempt to have a re-trial is [inconsistent with] a state of law," Hun

Sen said at the signing of an alliance with Nguon Soeur's Khmer Citizen Party on

Mar 27.

At a Funcinpec congress Mar 21, which also marked the one year anniversary of bickering

between Funcinpec and CPP, Ranariddh described Sirivudh's 10-year-in-jail sentence

handed down by the Municipal Court 13 months ago as illegal.

Calling for a revision of the verdict and a retrial of the case, Ranariddh asked

the congress' participants to send a petition to the King asking him to pardon Sirivudh.

"Doing this is for justice for our party, one individual and for guaranteeing

safety for the people throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia," Ranariddh said.

Sirivudh, exiled in France and later sentenced in absentia to 10-year imprisonment

for criminal conspiracy and illegal weapons, has said he would return to the country

this month, but announced no firm date.

Ranariddh compared Siri-vudh's case with that of Sin Sen's - a convicted coup plotter

whose ill health won him permission to stay under house arrest after he spent 18

months in prison.

"I'll urge that Sirivudh be provided with the opportunity to stay in his residence

[like] Sin Sen who is not yet free from punishment, but was allowed to be under house

arrest," Ranariddh said.

"We will protect him to make sure that he has adequate safety upon his return,"

he added.

Hun Sen said he had no objection to Ranariddh's suggestion, but in a clear bid to

remain tough on the affair, demanded that Sirivudh be imprisoned for the same length

of time as Sin Sen.

He added that a doctor would be sent to examine the prince's health which is a key

precondition to Sirivudh's transfer home.

"If Sirivudh is not ill, he must complete a ten-year sentence in jail or at

least seven years. Thereby, His Majesty the King can pardon him," Hun Sen said.

The nation's monarchy has come under fire from the CPP's vice-president since the

King's announcement that he was considering abdicating.

Hun Sen warned of a throne crisis and threatened to scrap new elections and also

called for a constitutional amendment to exclude the Royalty from politics.

Angered, Ranariddh fired back, calling Hun Sen's comments discriminatory. He appeared

in firm defense of Sirivudh, the party's former secretary general whose arrest stemmed

significantly from Ranariddh's own decision.

Hun Sen said Ranariddh's lobbying of Funcinpec MPs was instrumental in removing parliamentary

immunity of Sirivudh, paving the way for his arrest.

"Samdech Krom Preah was the one who informed the diplomatic corps about Norodom

Sirivudh's faults. Why one year later, must this matter fall on Hun Sen alone?"

Hun Sen said.

"Look! I think it's enough. Politicians should respect [their words] and stop

being one thing last year and another next year, no-one can do business with you,"

he added.

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