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Chakrapong says court tool of the ruling parties

Chakrapong says court tool of the ruling parties

Prince Norodom Chakrapong has denounced the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as a tool

of the ruling political parties being used to undermine the reputation of ousted

Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Chakrapong, acting president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), told reporters

at a press conference on December 20 that the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

has been using the court to intimidate and interfere with the NRP to frustrate its

participation in the commune elections on April 1, 2007.

"The betrayers of Prince Norodom Ranariddh found that after the coup de parti

there was a lack of support from the members at the grass roots, so they have tried

to create problems for my brother," Chakrapong said. "They use the court

to intimidate my brother to stop his political career."

In December two lawsuits filed against Ranariddh were accepted by the court - one

by Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay alleging corruption, the other by

the prince's estranged wife Marie alleging infidelity under the Adultery Law passed

on September 1, 2006.

"I think the court is biased and the lawsuits against Ranariddh are politically

motivated," Chakrapong said.

He said that on October 23, 2006, the NRP filed a lawsuit with the Phnom Penh Municipal

against the new Funcinpec president, Keo Puth Rasmey and Bun Chhay, alleging that

they had illegally ousted Ranariddh from the party.

The court had ignored that suit, but had begun proceedings in relation to Bun Chhay's

and Marie's countersuits.

Chakrapong said Funcinpec founder King Father Norodom Sihanouk had handed over Funcinpec

to his son Prince Ranariddh, so Funcinpec is the trademark of Ranariddh that no one

can steal from him.

Ranariddh was removed as president of Funcinpec on October 18, founded the Norodom

Ranariddh Party, and lost his seat in the National Assembly on December 12.

Bun Chhay filed a lawsuit with Phnom Penh Municipal Court on November 8, 2006, alleging

that his former president had committed a breach of trust by selling Funcinpec's

headquarters for his own benefit on August 5, 2005.

Bun Chhay has appealed to the court to punish Prince Norodom Ranarridh and order

the prince to return $3.6 million to Funcinpec.

But Ranariddh's lawyer, Moung Arun, and Muth Channtha, a spokesman for the NRP, said

the prince did not take even one US dollar. All the money had been used to construct

a new Funcinpec headquarters.

Arun said all the expenses were transparent and for every one there was an invoice.

Channtha asked why Bun Chhay didn't point the finger at corrupt CPP and Funcinpec

officials in the current coalition government.

He said Ranariddh would return to Cambodia soon and will testify if the court summons

him.

Koul Panha, executive director of the local election monitoring NGO the Committee

for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) said on December 26 that the lawsuit

was politically motivated, and the two parties in the conflict were just wasting

time.

"I think it is time for Funcinpec and NRP to consider about strengthening their

parties to participatie in the elections," Panha said.

But Ly Thouch, a Funcinpec parliamentarian, told the Post on December 21 that only

the voters have the right to decide which political party is involved in corruption.

"I think whether a political party is bad or good is for the voters to decide,"

Thouch said. "Prince Ranariddh's political career is at a crossroads while he

cannot control his personal life. He must change his ways."

However Keo Remy, a Rainsy Party opposition parliamentarian, said that Ranariddh

had the right to sign the sale of the Funcinpec headquarters because he was president

of the party at the time, and he would not be facing a lawsuit if it were not politically

motivated.

"Look at the government: they have sold public parks, public buildings and public

lands; why are there no lawsuits?" Remy said.

"With this lawsuit against Ranariddh, when other political parties take power

they will be able to file lawsuits against Prime Minister Hun Sen," Remy said.

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