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Sihanouk Not Immune to Tribunal, Rights Group Says

Because he is not the ruling monarch, former king Norodom Sihanouk has no constitutional protection against the tribunal courts, a leading rights group said Monday.

Parliament has granted Sihanouk special status as "Great Valorous King," which was meant to grant him "the same privileges and immunities as those constitutionally conferred upon the reigning monarch," the group said in a statement.

But "the Asian Human Rights Commission strongly urges the Cambodian government, the National Assembly, the Senate and the Cambodian People's Party not to attempt to defend former king Sihanouk's immunity from prosecution, as it is both unconstitutional and indefensible," the group said. "They should lend support to the Khmer Rouge tribunal."

If truth or justice requires it, the group said, "Sihanouk should be summoned" as a defendant or witness.

If the people want full immunity for the former king, "there should be an amendment, stipulated clearly in the constitution, to avoid criticism like this one," opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said.

"I'm just asking, do they want to let the court process or not," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, without elaborating. "Why do you jam a stick in the wheel of the cart?"