Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has written to King Norodom Sihamoni responding to, and appearing to rebuke, a letter from the King that was read aloud at the National Assembly earlier this week.
The National Assembly on Tuesday convened its second plenary session after a three-month break, with Heng Samrin, the president of the CPP-only assembly, reading aloud King Sihamoni’s message.
In the letter, the King says he hopes the National Assembly, “which represents the entire Khmer people,” will take on the challenges it faces by “strictly adhering to a democratic and multiparty basis.”
In a response dated Wednesday, Mr. Rainsy appeared to disagree with the King’s assessment.
“As president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which represents at least three million people, I want the King to know that now the National Assembly…only has representatives from the Cambodian People’s Party: It is not representative of the entire Khmer people,” Mr. Rainsy wrote.
Ignoring written requests from Mr. Rainsy and the CNRP to refrain from convening the National Assembly, King Sihamoni in September presided over the swearing-in ceremony for the 68 members of the ruling party that won seats in the July 28 national election.
The 55 CNRP members that won seats, according to official results, have been boycotting their seats claiming widespread election fraud.
Mr. Rainsy also said in his letter this week that the National Assembly is illegitimate, claiming that Article 76 of the Constitution requires the swearing-in of 120 lawmakers to constitute a new mandate.
The opposition leader notes former King Norodom Sihanouk’s refusal to preside over the convening of the National Assembly during the extended political deadlock after the 2003 national election.
“In the same situation, former King Norodom Sihanouk decided not to preside in the first meeting of the National Assembly in the third mandate of 2003 because there were not lawmakers from all the parties that people voted for,” Mr. Rainsy wrote to King Sihamoni.
In early 2004, King Sihanouk flew to Beijing and said he would not return to convene the National Assembly until the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party sorted out their dispute over the election.
King Sihanouk refused to return when the CPP and Funcinpec agreed to a coalition that involved a major constitutional change.
The change allowed the 96 coalition lawmakers—in the absence of the 24 boycotting Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers—to elect all ministers in a single “package vote.” King Sihanouk said the agreement had “disfigured” both the Constitution and liberal democracy in Cambodia.
King Sihanouk abdicated the throne in October 2004. Unlike his father, King Sihamoni has shown an aversion to politics since taking the throne. In January, the Royal Cabinet demanded that the names of King Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath be left out of politics completely.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, King Sihamoni’s half-brother, who recently reentered politics with his new Community of Royalist People Party, warned last month that the CNRP, if elected to power, would threaten the very existence of the monarchy, as the opposition party rarely voices its support for the King.
Oum Daravuth, chief of King Sihamoni’s Royal Cabinet, said Thursday that the current King’s decision to convene the National Assembly in September was constitutionally correct.
“Based on the law, it is not required to have all 120 lawmakers for the first meeting of the National Assembly,” said Mr. Daravuth. “I understand that the National Assembly is only one party, but when the National Assembly first met, the King summoned both parties that won seats.”
“The Cambodia National Rescue Party did not join.”
Mr. Daravuth also suggested that Mr. Rainsy, who was prevented from running in July’s national election due to a criminal conviction that was pardoned by King Sihamoni weeks before the vote, could have more influence if he led his 55 lawmakers to join the National Assembly.
“I regret that he did not join the meeting,” Mr. Daravuth said.
“If Sam Rainsy joins the meeting, he could oppose [the government] in the National Assembly and reform a lot of things in society—like in Ukraine, where its lawmakers could vote to topple their president.”
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