Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has claimed an invitation from King Father Norodom Sihanouk to attend his birthday today is proof the royal family are at odds with the government over his criminal convictions.
The leader of the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party who lives in France said he received the invitation on Saturday to attend the annual celebration of Cambodia’s former leader, contradicting convictions against him in relation to disputed territory with Vietnam.
“[That] the King [Father] has the feeling to allow the Royal palace to send a letter to me means that the King [Father] regards me the same as other parliamentarians . . . without problems, as the government has accused,” he said yesterday.
Last year, Sam Rainsy was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison in two separate cases. One set of charges – destroying public property, racial incitement, disinformation and falsifying public documents – followed a protest in which he uprooted a post demarcating Cambodia’s border with Vietnam and produced maps alleging territorial encroachment by the Kingdom’s eastern neighbour.
He was also found guilty of defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for alleging he ran a prison under the Khmer Rouge.
Cheam Yeap, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said the King Father was within his rights to invite Sam Rainsy to the party, but added that the opposition leader would be arrested it he returned.
“It is the Prince’s royal rights. As the festival owner, who he invites is up to him – no problem,” Cheam Yeap said.
Last week, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which Cambodia is a member, issued a statement reaffirming its position that Sam Rainsy’s conviction for pulling out the border post was a political ruling that should be overturned in the interests of Cambodia’s democratic processes.
Cheam Yeap said, however, that although Cambodia was a member of the IPU, it had no authority over the Kingdom’s legal system.
There were only two ways Sam Rainsy could return to Cambodia: through a royal pardon requested by the prime minister or a parliamentary pardon, he added.