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Prince Norodom Ranariddh Addresses 'Hello VOA'

The prince-in-exile, Norodom Ranariddh, addressed "Hello VOA" listeners from Malaysia Thursday on the future of his self-named party.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party is poised to either heal the growing rifts among royalists or join a call from the opposition for a united front against the ruling party in the 2008 national elections.

Ranariddh has been sentenced to 18 months in absentia for crimes related to embezzlement, but has refused to face the sentence, which he says was handed down by a biased court.

Ranariddh said Thursday he would consider returning only after a royal pardon. He was no worse than the Khmer Rouge leader, Ieng Sary, who was given pardon by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1998, the prince said.

The Sam Rainsy Party, meanwhile, had not organized a proper democratic front following April's commune elections, the prince said, but had instead called others to join his party.

The new Human Rights Party, led by advocate Kem Sokha, was likely to take support away from the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec, Radariddh said.

One caller asked whether Funcinpec was in jeopardy following the firing of party officials from key posts and their replacement by Cambodian People's Party officials.

The prince said the shuffling proved Funcinpec was no longer a viable coalition partner. He welcomed Funcinpec members to join his party.