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Prince, swords and crime slash royal reputation

Prince, swords and crime slash royal reputation

Handcuffed, downcast, under police escort, Prince Norodom Charuchak arrived at Phnom

Penh Municipal Court on May 30 - 31 to face interrogation about alleged participation

in organized crime and gang violence.

Charuchak, the son of Prince Norodom Chakrapong and grandson of retired King Norodom

Siahnouk, was arrested May 28 along with eight male suspects and a young woman, all

aged 16 to 20, at a rented flat in 7 Makara district, Beung Pralet commune.

Police said the raid was sparked by a three-month string of related robberies and

gang warfare in the Phnom Penh district, once infamous for its violent crime.

"We confiscated five illegal swords and two motorbikes," said Huy Song,

deputy police chief of 7 Makara district. "They confessed that the swords were

meant to be used for revenge on another group of gangsters."

Song, said the crack down was needed to restore public order and security after police

received numerous complains about "this annoying group of gangsters."

According to Deputy Prosecutor Ung Bunchea, the suspects were held for two days at

7 Makara police station, before being questioned individually by the court. He told

the Post that two suspects were released on May 31 and seven others were being further

investigated. A conviction for armed robbery carries a six to 10 year prison sentence.

The highly publicized arrest has drawn charges of political motivation aimed at Chakrapong,

now acting president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). Ranariddh, Charuchak's

uncle, is in Malaysia and faces an 18 months prison sentence for the illegal sale

of his former political party's headquarters. Chakrapong, currently in Bangkok, organized

a short-lived secession movement in 1993 and was implicated in a coup attempt in

1994. Chakrapong, who has six wives and 13 children,was allowed to flee the country

in 1994.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, second deputy president of the NRP, said that Charuchak

was not a member of any political party.

"I dare not conclude that there is political motivation, but Charuchak's father

is a politician and based on the culture of communist, he was a threat against his

father," Thomico said.

Nhim Yoeun, deputy chief of the 7 Makara penal office, agreed that Charuchak's arrest

was not about politics. Yoeun alleged the Prince provided accommodation for gangsters.

On May 29, Yim Simony, 7 Makara district police chief told a group of reporters that

Charuchak rented the flat in February for $180 per month. Police described the apartment

as a hiding place used by gansters.

Wearing dark denim jeans and a black T- shirt on May 31, the portly prince sat quietly

on the floor in the hall of the prosecutor building. A 22-year-old bachelor, Charuchak

is called "Dy Dy" by his friends.

"The prince is very moral and never committed anything wrong," said a woman

at the court who identified herself as a relative of the Prince. "He might know

some of them but I believe he is not involved."

Cambodian media has reported ongoing incidents involving allegations of the children

from elite families engaging in criminal acts, including shootings and murders.

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