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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sirivudh left on stand-by

Sirivudh left on stand-by

PRINCE Norodom Sirivudh this week gained the unlikely distinction of being someone

who wanted to come to Cambodia to go to jail, but wasn't allowed.

After months of speculation over his impending return, Sirivudh was due to fly into

Phnom Penh on Tuesday, vowing that he would rather go to prison than remain in exile.

But after flying from France to Hong Kong to catch a Dragonair flight to Phnom Penh,

the airline refused to let him on board.

A Dragonair official told Reuters that Cambodian officials had informed the airline

that the Prince was banned from landing in Phnom Penh.

Other sources say that CPP officials from the Ministry of Interior had visited British

diplomats in Phnom Penh seeking that they dissuade Dragonair from taking Sirivudh.

Earlier, other neighboring, including Malaysia, had earlier decided they would not

permit Sirivudh to transit through their airports.

Sirivudh was exiled to France in late 1995 over an alleged plot to kill Hun Sen.

At his trial in absentia in Feb 1996, condemned by many human rights workers as a

farce, he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on firearms and conspiracy charges.

The co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry are understood to have agreed

late last week that Sirivudh, if he returned, would be met by police and taken to

T3 prison.

Speaking at Hong Kong airport after the Dragonair flight left without him on Tuesday,

Sirivudh said he had no objection to be imprisoned while he sought a review of his

1996 trial.

"I accept to be in jail [or] to be under house arrest. That's how I ask to review

my trial case. I'm ready for this."

Sirivudh said the government had nothing to fear from his return: "I don't have

an army. I'm just a member of parliament fighting for democracy, human rights. I

fight for an ideal, not with weapons."

Sirivudh later said he would try to catch a Royal Air Cambodge flight to Phnom Penh

scheduled for last night (Apr 17), but RAC officials said they would not permit him

on board.

At press time, Sirivudh said he had asked to visit King Norodom Sihanouk in Beijing,

and would then decide his next move.

Article 40 of Cambodia's Constitution guarantees Cambodian citizens the right to

travel or settle in a foreign country, but return if they want to.

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