After King Sihanouk's departure from Cambodia, and as Prince Ranariddh still faces
the threat of a trial on criminal charges, long-time Royal aide Julio A. Jeldres
canvasses the amnesty debate, condemns the role of some in the international
community, and outlines the Prince's defense case.
On Christmas Eve 1997, during a private audience with His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk
at the Khemarin palace in Phnom Penh, the King confided to me that he was being advised
that, before granting an amnesty to his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the democratically-elected
First Prime Minister, the latter would have to request such a Royal pardon.
My instant answer to King Sihanouk was that according to Article 27 of Cambodia's
1993 Constitution, the King alone has the power to grant a pardon or amnesty. His
Majesty, in my presence, gave instructions for a legal opinion to be made available
to him on the matter.
A few days later, a campaign began on CPP-controlled radio and television and in
the press. Students from two French-funded institutions, the Agricultural College
and the Technological Institute, were organized to sign petitions to the King, demanding
that he not grant an amnesty to his son unless the latter requested it.
On Monday January 5, the King left abruptly for China, after announcing that he would
not grant Ranariddh an amnesty unless his son requested one.
Since his bloody coup d'etat of July 5-6, 1997, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has
orchestrated criminal charges against HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in order to obtain
domestic and international recognition of his violent overthrow of Cambodia's newly-established
democratic institutions and the gross violations of human rights that followed.
Unfortunately, the first casualty of the July events has been the truth. In addition
to the lies told by Cambodia's new dictator and his subordinates, it seems that the
international community is one of the chief purveyors of the instant rewrite of the
The reaction of some Western Ambassadors and diplomats in Phnom Penh has been both
interesting and disturbing. There is, for instance, the comment made by the French
Ambassador during a recent audience with King Sihanouk, to the effect that he could
not understand why there was such fuss over the murders of 43 senior officials from
Funcinpec, when there have been many more killings in Algeria and Rwanda! King Sihanouk
is reported to have been shocked by the Ambassador's remark, as all the officials
murdered belonged to the Royalist party and some had struggled with the King against
Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia in the 1980s.
On the diplomatic cocktail circuit in Phnom Penh, there seems to be a narrow-minded
need, "because of our bilaterial relationship with Cambodia", to look at
the coup d'etat and the executions that followed in a so-called "unbiased"
way - without protesting over the impunity enjoyed by the killers, and without embarrassing
the Hun Sen government for not seriously investigating the murders.
This is a clear case of double standards. When a German court found recently that
Iranian agents had killed three Kurds at a restaurant in Berlin some years ago, most
of the Ambassadors of the European Union were promptly withdrawn from Teheran and
contacts with the Iranian government were reduced to a minimum.
In Cambodia, it is believed - through confidential reports of the US Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other intelligence services - that
Hun Sen is personally involved in drug trafficking and that he has ordered the killing
of his opponents, yet no country seems to be willing to show moral courage and act
The constantly-repeated remark that "it is up to the Cambodian people to resolve
this problem, we should not interfere" is part of an effort by certain Western
countries to keep Hun Sen in power. This is the same man who was rejected by the
Cambodian people in the historic, UN-supervised free and fair elections of 1993,
which have been lauded ad nauseam as the most successful UN mission ever.
Cambodia's judicial system
Before assessing the "charges" made by the Hun Sen regime against Prince
Norodom Ranariddh, it is essential to look at the current judicial system, to get
an accurate picture of the kind of "justice" Prince Ranariddh can expect,
were he to submit himself to the judgment of the CPP-controlled courts.
Cambodia's current judicial system was established during the Vietnamese occupation,
which in turn had established the pro-Vietnamese People's Revolutionary Party of
Kampuchea (PRPK). Thus, the judicial system set was totally submitted to the will
of, and tightly controlled by, the PRPK, in order to maintain its hold on power.
Despite cosmetic changes to the PRPK in 1989, such as its renaming as the Cambodian
People's Party (CPP), the communist structure of the Party did not change. It remains
basically a Stalinist party similar to those in power in China, Vietnam, North Korea
Thus, the cosmetic changes produced no change to the judicial system, which remains
under the tight control of the CPP. According to an Amnesty International report
of October 23, 1997: "The judicial system remains weak and corrupt, and the
Royal Government has not demonstrated that it has the political will to implement
reforms, uphold the rule of law in Cambodia and provide justice for victims and their
families. In this climate, there are grave doubts that the human rights violations
which took place during and after 5-6 July will be investigated, thus creating an
environment in the run up to the elections due in 1998 in which the security and
freedom of association of Cambodians are severely compromised."
Similarly, Ambassador Thomas Hammarberg, Special Representative of the UN Secretary
General for Human Rights in Cambodia, stated in his most recent report to the UN
General Assembly in September: "The lack of independence of the judiciary and
the problems related to the administration of justice continue to be of major concern
to the Special Representative. The continued absence of basic institutions called
for by the Constitution remains a serious problem. Today, virtually all judges and
prosecutors in Cambodia are members of the CPP. The Special Representative is concerned
by numerous reports of lacking judicial independence."
As can be seen from the above comments, the judicial system is far from being an
independent one able to conduct an impartial, objective and fair trial of Prince
The allegations against Prince Ranariddh
A) Illegal importation of arms. The charges made against HRH Prince Ranariddh
for "illegal" importation of arms do not hold forth, as the Prince, on
top of his function as First Prime Minister, also exercises the post of Co-Commander
in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
Permission to import the arms was sought through the appropriate channels of the
Ministries of Defense and Finance, both of which granted it. The only mistake made
by the Prince was to sign a letter to the Port Authority in Sihanoukville declaring
that the consignment contained "spare parts" - at the request of the Polish
manufacturer, who did not want to disclose that it had sold the arms to Cambodia.
This does not constitute an "illegal" importation of arms, as all the ministries
which are required by Cambodian law to know about such imports, were adequately informed.
Also, the question must be asked: How many times did the CPP import arms and ammunition
without informing the First Prime Minister or the appropriate ministries?
B) Secret negotiations with the Khmer Rouge: This allegation is without foundation.
Prince Ranariddh, acting in the best interests of Cambodia and in order to achieve
peace and true national reconciliation, had tried to make peace a reality by negotiating
1. The Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng cut all links with Pol Pot and hand him over to
an international tribunal to face judgment for crimes against humanity;
2. They recognize the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and;
3. They recognize HM the King as the Father and symbol of national unity.
There were no concessions made to the Khmer Rouge, as had happened in August 1996
when Hun Sen secretly negotiated the defection of senior Khmer Rouge leader Ieng
Sary, who was given autonomy for the region under his control. Nor were there promises
made for a political return of the Khmer Rouge.
The draft document which was to have been signed by Prince Ranariddh and [KR nominal
leader] Mr Khieu Samphan on 4 July, 1997 took a long time to be finalized because
of Prince Ranariddh's demand that all vitriolic language against Hun Sen be deleted.
Hun Sen was kept informed of daily developments of a committee of senior miltiary
and political officials, formed earlier last year to ease tensions between Funcinpec
and the CPP. Thus, there was no secrecy involved.
It has been suggested that Hun Sen was not interested in bringing Pol Pot to an international
tribunal because his own past participation in the Khmer Rouge would have come under
This probably explains why on June 22, 1997 during the official visit to Cambodia
by Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchayuth of Thailand, at a private meeting attended
only by Prime Minister Chavalit, Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen, the latter asked the
Thai leader to grant asylum in Thailand to Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok and Khieu Samphan.
The Thai leader agreed to Hun Sen's request but the latter's coup d'etat prevented
the Khmer Rouge leadership from obtaining sanctuary in Thailand.
The allegations against Prince Ranariddh have been made for purely political purposes,
in order to prevent the Prince from playing the role to which he was elected by the
people of Cambodia in free and fair elections organized by the international community
in May 1993.
In the words of Ambassador Thomas Hammarberg, in his report to the UN Secretary General
Sept 26, 1997, the court case against Prince Ranariddh "appears politicially
motivated and beyond the court's jurisdication".
- Julio A. Jeldres is a former Private Secretary to King Sihanouk (1981-91) and
the Founder and Chairman of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. He is currently a Special
Advisor to Prince Norodom Ranariddh.