Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Its my party and I'll fly if I want to

Its my party and I'll fly if I want to

Its my party and I'll fly if I want to

THE government is locked in a legal dispute with

Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh over ownership

of the Prince's $1m-plus Dauphin helicopter.

The cost of the case could be upwards of half a

million dollars at a time when Cambodia is sliding into

further poverty and, for many, starvation.

The government will drop the case, Attorney-General

Kao Bun Hong says, if Ranariddh agrees to join a

coalition with the CPP.

Bun Hong has made several recent trips to a Singapore

court to file papers explaining why Ranariddh's

helicopter impounded there should be Cambodian state

property.

Storage fees, rising by the day, and full repair and

maintenance costs for the helicopter will reach upwards

of $500,000, it is estimated. Tens of thousands of

dollars or more will have to be spent on legal fees and

sundry costs.

"Don't you think they'd [all] find something

better to spend this money on?" one source asked.

The Dauphin is the most expensive and luxurious of the

three aircraft Ranariddh privately owns.

Meanwhile Hun Sen, for his part, is most interested in

seeing the case continued, insiders say - something

surely pricking at the Prince who is a keen aviation

buff.

Bun Hong told the Post Oct 28: "This case will be

cancelled if Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] agrees with

the CPP to set up a government." He said that the

dispute had not yet come to trial but was instead only in

the preparation phase of filing evidence and proofs.

He mentioned that the Sing-aporean company contracted

by the government to repair and store the Dauphin

"had filed to the court to see who should keep the

[aircraft]" - and who too will probably be left with

the big bill: the government, or the Prince. "The

cost is a lot," Bun Hong said, without exactly

elaborating, "... the loser will pay."

The government has petitioned the court to have the

case transfered to Cambodia, the attorney-general said.

However, that decision had not yet been made.

"If Ranariddh doesn't trust the Cambodian courts,

he [does] trust his father, the King," Bun Hong

said.

The helicopter was bought by Ranariddh just before

July last year.

He already had a French-made TB-10 trainer and a

Cessna 420 twin-engined commuter.

The Dauphin came into the government's posession when,

after the coup, Funcinpec loyalists tried to fly it and

three other aircraft from Phnom Penh to Thailand. They

got to Banteay Meanchey but the Thais refused them

permission to enter their airspace. The aircraft were

seized by local military and returned to Phnom Penh,

where the Dauphin was painted in camoflague colors and

used by the government. About six months ago the

helicopter was sent to Singapore for a major overhaul.

Since then the legal row has blown up as the Prince

tries to secure that which one aviation source said was

unquestionably his personal property.

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