Pardon Standing Still

A pardon for deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Rana­riddh was on hold Friday, pending a joint response by the two prime ministers to King Norodom Sihanouk’s request, officials said.

The royal pardon would wipe out two criminal convictions hand­ed down this month by Phnom Penh’s Military Court, thus making the prince eligible to run in the scheduled July elections.

The prince, however, still faces a civil damages bill of more than $56 million, which the King says his par­don cannot expunge. The King’s pardon is contingent on the approval of both prime ministers.

A response to the king was drafted late Thursday, but as of Friday morning had not been signed either by First Prime Mini­ster Ung Huot, who is in Thai­land, or by Second Prime Mini­ster Hun Sen, according to aides.

Senior Hun Sen adviser Prak Sokhonn said his boss had agreed to the wording of the re­sponse, but would not sign it until Ung Huot has also approved it.

“We have no answer from the first prime minister yet,” Prak Sokhonn said. “Everything de­pends on how fast he can an­swer.”

Prak Sokhonn refused to give details of the response, which the king has predicted will not meet his requirements to grant the pardon.

One long-time political observer commented that it was not im­possible that Ung Huot might refuse to OK the pardon, even if Hun Sen were prepared to do so.

“Maybe Hun Sen will say yes. It’s the first prime minister that will say no, to please Hun Sen,” the observer speculated.

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