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Court builds Ranariddh case

Court builds Ranariddh case

A BOUT 20 witnesses including top Funcinpec officials will be summoned to testify

against ousted First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, according to the Chief

Judge of the military court, who predicted the trial would take place in October.

A former military adviser to the prince, Major General Tum Sambol, told journalists

last week that he will be a witness against the prince at the court case if necessary.

"I will do whatever I can for the purpose of national interests," Sambol

said.

The military court issued two arrest warrants in August, accusing Ranariddh of committing

crimes against national security and of illegally importing weapons in Sihanoukville.

Sambol told the press that the prince was guilty on both counts, claiming that even

while he was close to the prince he was unaware of the secret negotiations conducted

by General Nhek Bun Chhay and Ranariddh with the Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng.

A high ranking Funcinpec official who asked not to be named claimed that Funcinpec

now had no power to oppose the CPP, saying that Funcinpec officials have to follow

the aims of CPP.

"It is too late to oppose CPP ideas. We must follow them, otherwise we will

have to flee the country," the source said. "If the court needs 10 Funcinpec

officials to testify against their former boss we have to send 10, and if they need

20 we have to send 20. How can we say no?"

Ranariddh's trial was supposed to take place this month but officials had been too

busy, according to the military court Chief Judge Ney Thol.

"I don't want the world to keep waiting for this trial any longer. I wanted

to hold the trial this month but it was impossible because our court officials are

busy with the Pchum Ben ceremony," Thol said.

Investigating judge Nou Chantha said the process of the investigation is proceeding

steadily but hurdles remained as he wanted to find additional evidence and witnesses

to testify against the prince. Chantha said he didn't expect that the prince's trial

would be held soon.

"This court case is not simple. The Prince is First Prime Minister so we cannot

joke around with it. We have to go over it carefully and independently," the

judge said.

Both Ney Thol and Nou Chantha maintained strongly that their military court is independent

even though the court had been set up by the former government.

"As we are an independent court, we have to proceed with a very lengthy and

independent investigation even if we face difficulties because the prince's trial

needs to be researched more properly in order to document and collect the real evidence

and witnesses for a fair trial," Judge Nou Chantha said.

Around 20 witnesses will be presented at the trial: 10 to testify against the prince

on the importing illegal weapons charge and another 10 for the charge of damaging

national security, according to Ney Thol.

In a separate legal tussle, BLDP founder Son Sann lost a court case to Information

Minister Ieng Mouly on the question of using the party's logo at a hearing at the

Municipal Court Sept 10.

Member of Parliament Thach Reng, a long-time BLDP member, referred to Mouly as "a

child of the younger generation" [someone who had been helped by an elder but

did not return the respect] and said he was not surprised by the court's ruling.

"I am very happy the judge of the municipal court decided our side lost. Because

through this unfair trial it can show people more clearly about the lack of independence

of the courts in Cambodia," Reng said.

Son Sann has two months to file an appeal. But Reng said he will wait until the 59th

day before filing the appeal as a means of preventing Mouly from using the logo for

as long as possible. "This court case will not be finished easily. The dispute

will take years," said Reng, adding that he could still use the logo until the

case was settled.

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