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Warrants issued for PM

CAMBODIA'S military court issued two arrest warrants for ousted First Prime Minister

Prince Norodom Ranariddh Aug 8, two days after the National Assembly voted to remove

his parliamentary immunity.

The first warrant accuses the Prince of committing "crimes against the security

in the country on the 4th to 6th of July in Phnom Penh," while the second accuses

him of illegally purchasing and importing weapons on May 26 in Sihanoukville. Both

warrants were signed by investigating judge Nou Chantha.

"As independent judges, we have issued the arrest warrants following ... the

Constitution, which says that every citizen is equal to face the law," said

General Ney Thol, the military court chairman, Aug 12. "If [Ranariddh] is sure

that he has not committed a crime, he should return to face trial." If he does

not return within six months, the court will sentence him in absentia, Ney Thol said.

The National Assembly paved the way for the arrest warrants when it voted Aug 6 to

strip Ranariddh of his parliamentary immunity. The day before, military prosecutor

General Sao Sok sent a letter to the Assembly explaining why his office had requested

that the prince's immunity be lifted, alleging that the Prime Minister had smuggled

Khmer Rouge troops into Phnom Penh and stockpiled guns.

"Thus far, the evidence, both the military forces and number of weapons seized,

as well as the many weapons that competent authorities discovered from the hiding

places, is inexcusable," the letter read in part.

A Funcinpec National Assembly member was noncommittal about his support for a trial.

"I don't know ... it is the duty of the court," said Kann Man.

The Prince has said he will not stand trial in Cambodia because the courts are not

independent. But Chairman Ney Thol, who has been working at the military court for

over ten years, disputes that claim. "People who said that the court is not

independent are riding a horse looking at the flower garden [out of touch with reality],"

he said. "On behalf of the Khmer people who let me work as a judge, I give a

judgment based on the law in an independent and fair way."

Ney Thol said that the court has contacted Interpol for domestic and international

help in securing Ranariddh's arrest. Interpol director General Skadavy M Ly Roun

said he has not yet received an official letter from the military court, but that

he will respect the order when he receives it. However, he expressed doubt that the

prince will be sent back to Cambodia for trial because he holds a French passport.

"I think it will be difficult to take him back into the country because Samdech

Krom Preah is a French citizen," he said, and "as I know the law of France,

it does not allow its people to be sentenced outside the country."



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