Cambodian King pardons opposition leader Sam Rainsy

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-7-12 17:10:06

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on Friday granted a royal pardon to Sam Rainsy, self-exiled leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"It is true that the King grants a royal pardon to Sam Rainsy at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen," Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told Xinhua over telephone on Friday afternoon.

In a letter to the King on Friday, Hun Sen said: "Based on the spirit of national unification and reconciliation, and to ensure a free and fair election (on July 28), I would like to ask His Majesty the King to grant a royal pardon to His Excellency Sam Rainsy."

On the same day, the King signed off a royal decree to grant the royal pardon to Sam Rainsy.

"At the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, I decided to grant the royal pardon to convict Sam Rainsy, 62, who was convicted by the court's verdict in March 2011," the King wrote in the royal decree.

The pardon came after Sam Rainsy wrote a letter to the King on June 13 to ask for the clemency. Sam Rainsy announced on his Facebook page last Saturday that he would return to Cambodia before the elections even if no royal pardon is granted.

With the pardon, Sam Rainsy will be able to return to Cambodia for the fifth National Assembly elections on July 28.

Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia in late 2009 before the court sentenced him to 11 years in prison in absentia on two charges -- removing border poles and publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam and accusing Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of being a member of the Democratic Kampuchea.

He has since then lived in France.

Yim Sovann, CNRP'spokesman, said the royal pardon demonstrated Sam Rainsy's innocence and said Sam Rainsy would travel to Cambodia before the elections.

"Sam Rainsy has no mistake; he has done everything to defend territorial integrity," he told Xinhua over telephone. "We thank His Majesty the King for granting the royal pardon, which will clear all doubts among Cambodian people and international community about Sam Rainsy's innocence."

Deputy Prime Minister Nhik Bun Chhay, secretary general of the royalist Funcinpec Party, welcomed the news, saying that the pardon reflected unification among Cambodian people

"It's good that he can return to lead his supporters to contest in the upcoming elections," he told Xinhua over telephone on Friday.

Eight political parties will compete in the elections with about 9.67 million eligible voters.

A month-long election campaign kicked off on June 27 and will complete on July 26.

Two main parties are the ruling Cambodian People's Party of incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party led by Sam Rainsy.

Hun Sen's party is widely expected to win the majority in the forthcoming elections.

One of the world's longest-serving leaders, Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and vowed to stay in the post until he is 74.

The country holds a general election in every five years. During the last election in July 2008, Hun Sen's party won 90 seats out of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition group totally gained 29 seats.

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