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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ranariddh's ball in Hun Sen's court

Ranariddh's ball in Hun Sen's court

After King Sihanouk's departure from Cambodia, and as Prince Ranariddh still faces

the threat of a trial on criminal charges, long-time Royal aide Julio A. Jeldres
canvasses the amnesty debate, condemns the role of some in the international

community, and outlines the Prince's defense case.

On Christmas Eve 1997, during a private audience with His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk

at the Khemarin palace in Phnom Penh, the King confided to me that he was being advised

that, before granting an amnesty to his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the democratically-elected

First Prime Minister, the latter would have to request such a Royal pardon.

My instant answer to King Sihanouk was that according to Article 27 of Cambodia's

1993 Constitution, the King alone has the power to grant a pardon or amnesty. His

Majesty, in my presence, gave instructions for a legal opinion to be made available

to him on the matter.

A few days later, a campaign began on CPP-controlled radio and television and in

the press. Students from two French-funded institutions, the Agricultural College

and the Technological Institute, were organized to sign petitions to the King, demanding

that he not grant an amnesty to his son unless the latter requested it.

On Monday January 5, the King left abruptly for China, after announcing that he would

not grant Ranariddh an amnesty unless his son requested one.

Since his bloody coup d'etat of July 5-6, 1997, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has

orchestrated criminal charges against HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in order to obtain

domestic and international recognition of his violent overthrow of Cambodia's newly-established

democratic institutions and the gross violations of human rights that followed.

Unfortunately, the first casualty of the July events has been the truth. In addition

to the lies told by Cambodia's new dictator and his subordinates, it seems that the

international community is one of the chief purveyors of the instant rewrite of the

July events.

The reaction of some Western Ambassadors and diplomats in Phnom Penh has been both

interesting and disturbing. There is, for instance, the comment made by the French

Ambassador during a recent audience with King Sihanouk, to the effect that he could

not understand why there was such fuss over the murders of 43 senior officials from

Funcinpec, when there have been many more killings in Algeria and Rwanda! King Sihanouk

is reported to have been shocked by the Ambassador's remark, as all the officials

murdered belonged to the Royalist party and some had struggled with the King against

Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia in the 1980s.

On the diplomatic cocktail circuit in Phnom Penh, there seems to be a narrow-minded

need, "because of our bilaterial relationship with Cambodia", to look at

the coup d'etat and the executions that followed in a so-called "unbiased"

way - without protesting over the impunity enjoyed by the killers, and without embarrassing

the Hun Sen government for not seriously investigating the murders.

This is a clear case of double standards. When a German court found recently that

Iranian agents had killed three Kurds at a restaurant in Berlin some years ago, most

of the Ambassadors of the European Union were promptly withdrawn from Teheran and

contacts with the Iranian government were reduced to a minimum.

In Cambodia, it is believed - through confidential reports of the US Federal Bureau

of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other intelligence services - that

Hun Sen is personally involved in drug trafficking and that he has ordered the killing

of his opponents, yet no country seems to be willing to show moral courage and act

against him.

The constantly-repeated remark that "it is up to the Cambodian people to resolve

this problem, we should not interfere" is part of an effort by certain Western

countries to keep Hun Sen in power. This is the same man who was rejected by the

Cambodian people in the historic, UN-supervised free and fair elections of 1993,

which have been lauded ad nauseam as the most successful UN mission ever.

Cambodia's judicial system

Before assessing the "charges" made by the Hun Sen regime against Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, it is essential to look at the current judicial system, to get

an accurate picture of the kind of "justice" Prince Ranariddh can expect,

were he to submit himself to the judgment of the CPP-controlled courts.

Cambodia's current judicial system was established during the Vietnamese occupation,

which in turn had established the pro-Vietnamese People's Revolutionary Party of

Kampuchea (PRPK). Thus, the judicial system set was totally submitted to the will

of, and tightly controlled by, the PRPK, in order to maintain its hold on power.

Despite cosmetic changes to the PRPK in 1989, such as its renaming as the Cambodian

People's Party (CPP), the communist structure of the Party did not change. It remains

basically a Stalinist party similar to those in power in China, Vietnam, North Korea

and Cuba.

Thus, the cosmetic changes produced no change to the judicial system, which remains

under the tight control of the CPP. According to an Amnesty International report

of October 23, 1997: "The judicial system remains weak and corrupt, and the

Royal Government has not demonstrated that it has the political will to implement

reforms, uphold the rule of law in Cambodia and provide justice for victims and their

families. In this climate, there are grave doubts that the human rights violations

which took place during and after 5-6 July will be investigated, thus creating an

environment in the run up to the elections due in 1998 in which the security and

freedom of association of Cambodians are severely compromised."

Similarly, Ambassador Thomas Hammarberg, Special Representative of the UN Secretary

General for Human Rights in Cambodia, stated in his most recent report to the UN

General Assembly in September: "The lack of independence of the judiciary and

the problems related to the administration of justice continue to be of major concern

to the Special Representative. The continued absence of basic institutions called

for by the Constitution remains a serious problem. Today, virtually all judges and

prosecutors in Cambodia are members of the CPP. The Special Representative is concerned

by numerous reports of lacking judicial independence."

As can be seen from the above comments, the judicial system is far from being an

independent one able to conduct an impartial, objective and fair trial of Prince

Norodom Ranariddh.

The allegations against Prince Ranariddh

A) Illegal importation of arms. The charges made against HRH Prince Ranariddh

for "illegal" importation of arms do not hold forth, as the Prince, on

top of his function as First Prime Minister, also exercises the post of Co-Commander

in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Permission to import the arms was sought through the appropriate channels of the

Ministries of Defense and Finance, both of which granted it. The only mistake made

by the Prince was to sign a letter to the Port Authority in Sihanoukville declaring

that the consignment contained "spare parts" - at the request of the Polish

manufacturer, who did not want to disclose that it had sold the arms to Cambodia.

This does not constitute an "illegal" importation of arms, as all the ministries

which are required by Cambodian law to know about such imports, were adequately informed.

Also, the question must be asked: How many times did the CPP import arms and ammunition

without informing the First Prime Minister or the appropriate ministries?

B) Secret negotiations with the Khmer Rouge: This allegation is without foundation.

Prince Ranariddh, acting in the best interests of Cambodia and in order to achieve

peace and true national reconciliation, had tried to make peace a reality by negotiating

the following:

1. The Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng cut all links with Pol Pot and hand him over to

an international tribunal to face judgment for crimes against humanity;

2. They recognize the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and;

3. They recognize HM the King as the Father and symbol of national unity.

There were no concessions made to the Khmer Rouge, as had happened in August 1996

when Hun Sen secretly negotiated the defection of senior Khmer Rouge leader Ieng

Sary, who was given autonomy for the region under his control. Nor were there promises

made for a political return of the Khmer Rouge.

The draft document which was to have been signed by Prince Ranariddh and [KR nominal

leader] Mr Khieu Samphan on 4 July, 1997 took a long time to be finalized because

of Prince Ranariddh's demand that all vitriolic language against Hun Sen be deleted.

Hun Sen was kept informed of daily developments of a committee of senior miltiary

and political officials, formed earlier last year to ease tensions between Funcinpec

and the CPP. Thus, there was no secrecy involved.

It has been suggested that Hun Sen was not interested in bringing Pol Pot to an international

tribunal because his own past participation in the Khmer Rouge would have come under

scrutiny.

This probably explains why on June 22, 1997 during the official visit to Cambodia

by Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchayuth of Thailand, at a private meeting attended

only by Prime Minister Chavalit, Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen, the latter asked the

Thai leader to grant asylum in Thailand to Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok and Khieu Samphan.

The Thai leader agreed to Hun Sen's request but the latter's coup d'etat prevented

the Khmer Rouge leadership from obtaining sanctuary in Thailand.

The allegations against Prince Ranariddh have been made for purely political purposes,

in order to prevent the Prince from playing the role to which he was elected by the

people of Cambodia in free and fair elections organized by the international community

in May 1993.

In the words of Ambassador Thomas Hammarberg, in his report to the UN Secretary General

Sept 26, 1997, the court case against Prince Ranariddh "appears politicially

motivated and beyond the court's jurisdication".

- Julio A. Jeldres is a former Private Secretary to King Sihanouk (1981-91) and

the Founder and Chairman of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. He is currently a Special

Advisor to Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

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