The lawsuit against Prince Norodom Ranariddh - leader of the Norodom Ranariddh
Party (NRP) - is moving toward trial, threatening Ranariddh's campaign for the
commune council elections on April 1, a local election monitoring NGO
"If a leader of a political party cannot participate in the
electoral campaign it effects both the process of the election and the
supporters of that party," Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for
Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) told the Post on March
Panha said that barring a political leader for political reasons from
participating in the electoral campaign compromises the electoral
"It means the election is not free and fair and it lacks an
international standard," he said.
But Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the
National Election Committee (NEC), said the legal battle between NRP and
Funcinpec would not compromise the elections because they were only the commune
"This is not the national election to elect the Prime
Minister," he said. "These are local elections and the candidates are not
Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec's secretary-general, filed the
lawsuit against Ranariddh because the prince sold Funcinpec's Phnom Penh
headquarters in 2004. Bun Chhay alleged that Ranariddh sold the party's
headquarters without consultation with Funcinpec officials, and that this
constituted a breach of trust.
Ranariddh is living in France, where he is
teaching at a law school. With the trial looming it is unclear whether he will
return to Cambodia. Ranariddh has twice failed to attend court when summoned for
the investigation into the alleged breach of trust.
On February16, the
Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant ordering the National Police to
apprehend and escort Prince Norodom Ranariddh to the court for questioning upon
his return to Cambodia.
Muth Chantha, NRP's spokesman, told the Post that
Phnom Penh Municipal Court has now set March 13 as the date for Ranariddh's
trial - just three days before the commune council electoral campaign
Chantha said he was prepared for Ranariddh's return to Cambodia
but said Ranariddh had delayed returning because of perceived irregularities in
the court procedure. He said Ranariddh believed the court was being manipulated
by politicians in the ruling parties of the coalition government.
need time to examine the proceedings of the court and whether the court respects
its independence and the principles of justice or not," Chantha said. "We have a
strategy to prepare for the return of the prince to Cambodia."
resigned as President of the National Assembly on March 14, 2006, and was
dismissed as co-chairman of the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) and
chairman of the National Olympic Committee.
Ranariddh was ousted from the
presidency of Funcinpec on October 18, 2006. The move came after Prime Minister
Hun Sen accused Ranariddh of appointing unqualified individuals to political
positions and declared that Ranariddh's mistress, Ouk Phalla, was a moral
Ranariddh was then slapped with the Funcinpec law
Chantha said Funcinpec's law suit was motivated by political
revenge and jealousy because Ranariddh continued to retain strong grassroots
support after losing the leadership.
Ranariddh Anandayat, Ranariddh's
public relations adviser, told the Post on March 1 that politicians from
Funcinpec backed by the CPP have been trying to push Ranariddh out of politics
to serve their own political interests.
Anandayat said he was optimistic
that the popularity of Ranariddh at a grassroots level remains strong. He said
he expected Funcinpec would be surprised because the NRP would be able to elect
more than a thousand candidates to the country's 1,621 commune
Anandayat said that Nhiek Bun Chhay had appealed for the court
to bring Ranariddh to trial, even though the investigation had not
"I think that the appeal of the member of the government has
indicated that the politicians have interfered in the judicial system,"
He said the courts continue to violate judicial
procedures and continue to be used as an instrument to defeat the opposition
"Most importantly, the court is still controlled by a party of
one man in power," he said.
Anandayat said international donors must
consider their support for the court system, and ensure that proper reforms are
established to create an open and fair judicial system. "The NRP needs justice,"
The NRP argues that the breach of trust allegation is false and
has appealed for a mass peaceful demonstration in support of
The Phnom Penh Municipality has allowed the NRP to organize a
demonstration in the party's headquarters.
Nouv Sovathero, Funcinpec's
spokesperson, refused to comment on the case. He said it was an issue between
Ranariddh, NRP and the court.
"Ranariddh is the suspect and the court
will take him to trial," Sovathero said.