THE government has distributed what it calls an “apology” letter that Sam Rainsy wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2006, though the self-exiled opposition leader has disputed that characterisation.
Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said the government distributed the letter to local media last week so that “national and international public opinion know that Sam Rainsy has apologised”.
In his 2006 letter, Sam Rainsy wrote, “I am regretful for having conducted improper acts towards Samdech [Hun Sen] such as accusing Samdech of being the mastermind behind the grenade attack on the protesters on 30 March 1997 in front of the National Assembly”.
The attack, which targeted an opposition rally, left 16 dead and more than 100 wounded.
Sam Rainsy said in an email yesterday that his 2006 letter was not an apology.
“I might ‘regret’ the way I had ‘improperly’ acted as a tribunal in straightforwardly accusing Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh of various crimes because I actually was not a tribunal, whose role is to investigate first before coming to any conclusion and handing down any sentence,” Sam Rainsy wrote.
“However, I have preserved my right to believe, and I do and still believe, in the responsibility of Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh in the related crimes.”
Tith Sothea said, however, that the letter had “equal value to an apology”.
The letter was part of a political settlement that allowed Sam Rainsy to return to the Kingdom in February 2006. Sam Rainsy had fled the country the previous year after losing his parliamentary immunity in connection with a defamation complaint filed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The SRP leader, a veteran of legal battles with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, had accused Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen of corruption in the formation of their coalition government.
On Wednesday, the Appeal Court is set to hand down a ruling in relation to Sam Rainsy’s January conviction at the Svay Rieng provincial court for racial incitement and destruction of public property as part of a protest he staged near the Vietnamese border.
The opposition leader, currently living abroad, received a 10-year jail term at Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month for disinformation and falsification of public documents after he published maps and held a series of press conferences earlier this year to discuss alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.