>Pardoned Cambodian prince returns from exile

>Prince Norodom Ranariddh (left)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) ā€” Prince Norodom Ranariddh arrived back home in Cambodia on Sunday, ending his self-imposed exile after receiving a royal pardon for his fraud conviction.

Ranariddh, who had been living in Malaysia, was pardoned by his half-brother King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday after being sentenced in absentia last year to 18 months in jail for a 3.6 million dollar illegal property scheme.

The court ruled he improperly sold his former political party headquarters and used proceeds from the sale to purchase another property in his own name, but he was pardoned last week upon the order of premier Hun Sen hours after the prime minister was re-elected for another five-year-term.

The smiling prince arrived at his residence in northwestern tourist hub Siem Reap on Sunday and made a speech showing “his deep gratitude to King Norodom Sihamoni for the royal pardon and Prime Minister Hun Sen for finding a solution to help him return to the country,” said the prince’s spokesman Suth Dina.

“The prince also said that he had served the country with former King Norodom Sihanouk for nearly 25 years but was still happy to further serve the country and his people if the (new) government needs him,” Suth Dina added.

Ranariddh faced jail once before in 1998 but was spared by a royal pardon from his father, former king Norodom Sihanouk.

He had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for allegedly plotting a coup with the Khmer Rouge a year earlier while he was co-prime minister with Hun Sen.

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