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Ranariddh Says He'll Skip Court Date

Prince Norodom Ranariddh told VOA Sunday he has no plans to return to Cambodia to face Phnom Penh Municipal Court charges related to embezzlement. Ranariddh is scheduled to appear Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said Saturday he would not pardon the prince if he were found guilty, was interfering with the independence of the court, Ranariddh said.

The Cambodian People's Party already has too much influence in the courts, he added.

"Because when in several days the court will try me, [Hun Sen] already talked about the sentencing," the prince said.

Ranariddh faces a suit filed by his old party, Funcinpec, accusing him of selling the headquarters of the party and pocketing the money when he was party leader. The prince was once co-prime minister with Hun Sen, until he was ousted in a coup.

Hun Sen said in a speech at Phnom Penh University Saturday that the prince likely would seek clemency if found guilty, but Hun Sen would not provide it until the prince had served two-thirds of his sentence.

The case would hurt his new party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, in upcoming commune elections, the prince said, but would provide "magical medication," a rallying point for voters.

Party officials have said they plan to hold a massive demonstration following the court date.

The courts are not independent and would be unable to provide a fair and impartial trial, Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said.