The government has strongly rebuffed an NGO’s request that retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s immunity be lifted in order to allow for investigation into his alleged involvement with the Khmer Rouge.
The retired king, whose “inviolability” is guaranteed by Article 7 of the constitution, will remain immune, the government said in a statement released Friday and endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“This issue was resolved following his retirement,” the statement said, referring to a law passed in 2004 stating that the retired king retains the “royal privileges and full immunity” guaranteed by the constitution.
“The Cambodian government would like to announce its strong rejection of any ideas to strip the retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s immunity in order to prosecute him,” the statement said, adding that Norodom Sihanouk was also a victim of the Khmer Rouge and lost numerous relatives during the regime.
In an Aug 20 statement addressed to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, the US-based NGO Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity called for the retired king to be investigated for his short-lived role as Democratic Kampuchea’s symbolic head of state, after which he spent most of the Pol Pot era under palace arrest.
The statement, signed by CACJE President Suon Sereirotha, called for the National Assembly to consider stripping Norodom Sihanouk’s immunity, an act which it said would allow “judges to have the full rights to summon suspects, witnesses and victims to testify at the court.”
The telephone number for CACJE’s local contact listed on the statement was not recognized by mobile networks Sunday.
Royal Palace cabinet member Oum Daravuth could not be reached for comment.
National Assembly Deputy President Nguon Nhel said the NGO’s request had already been dismissed because only one third of lawmakers or the prime minister can legally call for a National Assembly meeting.
Funcinpec wrote in a statement Friday, “The request is an insult against the retired King who has sacrificed everything for the country’s peace, independence, territory, democracy and neutrality.”
ECCC press officer Reach Sambath said Sunday, “It is up to the courts to decide who is right and who is wrong, who should be investigated and who should not be investigated.” He added that, in his opinion, the government’s response to the NGO’s request showed its support for the integrity of the tribunal.
Theary Seng, executive director of the Center for Social Development, said she is in strong agreement with the government. “The larger principle is the need to protect the constitution in an emerging democracy,” she said. “Protecting the constitution as supreme law is the core principle. It should not be easily amended or changed.”
According to the constitution, she said the retired king is non-political and should steer clear of ECCC proceedings, even as a witness.
The retired king—who signed the law creating the tribunal in 2001—has previously expressed a desire to appear as a witness, though in 2005 he called the tribunal a “comedy and a hypocrisy.”
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