The CPP government over the weekend released a slew of statements threatening court action against opposition leader Sam Rainsy for a letter he wrote last week, in which he appeared to rebuke King Norodom Si*hamoni for convening and congratulating the singleparty National Ass*embly.
In Mr. Rainsy’s letter, which was publicly released on Thurs*day, he contradicted the King’s assessment that the National Assembly “represents the entire Khmer people.” He also noted that the late King Norodom Sihanouk had refused on principle to convene parliament after the disputed 2003 national election.
On Saturday and Sunday, government institutions ranging from the National Assembly itself to the Ministry of Defense released statements condemning Mr. Rainsy for his message and asserting their support for measures to protect King Sihamoni’s constitutional inviolability.
Mr. Rainsy’s letter was published in response to a letter from King Sihamoni to lawmakers, which was read aloud by CPP Na*tional Assembly President Heng Samrin at the second plenary sitting of parliament*on Tuesday.
The Council of Ministers, in a letter released*on Saturday, says it “deeply regrets and strongly condemns” Mr. Rainsy for his letter to the King.
“It is an incitement to compel the King to act against the Constitution, which is an action tantamount to a constitutional coup,” the Coun*cil of Ministers’ letter says.
“The government believes that Mr. Rainsy’s raised point is of utmost abuse to the King and also the state of rules in Cam*bodia,” the letter continues.
It lists Mr. Rainsy’s efforts to “violate and badly affect the King’s dignity and reputation” as among the CNRP leader’s offenses against King Sihamoni.
“No matter what the cost, the government will consider taking strong measures against Mr. Sam Rainsy…to preserve and protect the national motto—nation, religion, king—and the dignity of the national society,” the Council of Ministers letter adds.
The letter also threatens legal action against Mr. Rainsy’s “rude deed” under Article 36 of the Law on the Organization and Func*tioning of the Constitutional Coun*cil, which pertains to disrespect for the council’s decisions.
The Constitutional Council in early September rejected outright the last of the CNRP’s complaints of irregularities in the*July 28 election, paving the way for the King to invite the 123 lawmakers who won seats to form a new parliament.
The CNRP’s 55 lawmakers are currently boycotting the National Assembly as the CPP’s 68 lawmakers are forging ahead, passing legislation last week that included a new roads law.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government says that King Sihamoni is bound by the Constitution to convene the National Assembly within 60 days of a national election and that a simple majority of its 123 lawmakers are required to form a government.
In a statement issued Sunday, the Defense Ministry, whose top officials have made numerous statements declaring their support for Mr. Hun Sen’s government since the disputed election, says that the entirety of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) also condemns Mr. Rainsy’s letter.
“We, the top brass and rank and file of RCAF, cannot accept the crooked deeds of Mr. Sam Rainsy, the president of the CNRP, who looks down upon the dignity and reputation of His Majesty the King, who is highly respected by the nation, and the people across the country,” reads the letter, which is signed by Defense Minister Tea Banh.
“This utmost rude deed clearly shows his abuse to the top national institution, the throne, and the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which was born from the people’s will via a free and fair national election,” the letter adds.
Similar statements condemning Mr. Rainsy and voicing support for measures to protect the King’s inviolability were released by the Sen*ate; the ministries of health, education, labor and environment; the provincial governments of Preah Vihear and Kandal; and the Phnom Penh municipal government.
Phay Siphan, spokesperson for the Council of Ministers, said the threats to take Mr. Rainsy to court are not empty. “In this case, he’s a national liar, and lying to the King is a very serious issue,” Mr. Siphan said. “On what action will be taken, it’s too early to for me to say.”
Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal aid NGO, said the government would find it difficult to take action against Mr. Rainsy for harming King Sihamoni’s dignity and reputation if it chose to pursue such a path.
“We only have in the Consti*tution that no one can touch him,” Mr. Sam Oeun said, referring to Article 7, which states that “the person of the King is inviolable.”
“The problem is that there is no offense in the criminal code. There are some serious crimes like murder of the King. But for touching him, I don’t see any laws.”
Mr. Sam Oeun explained that while criminal provisions exist against insulting monks or government officials, such laws against insulting the King had been deliberately left out of the country’s criminal code by the government.
“At the time of the drafting, the Ministry of Justice organized a workshop. You Hockry [the cominister of interior at the time] asked the question: Why is there no law of insult against the King?’” Mr. Sam Oeun said. “The minister of justice at the time said that the King doesn’t care [about insults], he always pities his people.”
Mr. Rainsy said Sunday that he was happy the CPP was helping to promote discussion about the legitimacy of Mr. Hun Sen’s government.
“They’re creating good publicity for what I try to explain. I would encourage them to continue to the raise the issue of the illegitimacy of their government,” Mr. Rainsy said. “When the King is involved and I am involved, people will say ‘What the hell is this about Sam Rainsy—what did he say that the King is now raising?’”
Mr. Rainsy said that if the government chose to pursue legal action over his letter to the King, Mr. Hun Sen himself should be a target. He noted the prime minister had in October 2005 threatened to dissolve the monarchy if King Sihamoni did not agree to sign off on a controversial border treaty with Vietnam.
“I said to Prince [Norodom] Ranariddh by phone that if it is hard to get the signature this time, we must review, should we keep the monarchy or form a republic?” Mr. Hun Sen said at the time, referring to King Sihamoni’s halfbrother.
Asked Sunday whether he would consider leaving for France to avoid a possible jail sentence, as he did in 2004 and 2009, Mr. Rainsy said things had since changed, notably the strength of the opposition since July’s election. *********** “This time there is no question,” he said. “Why should I stop them when they’re giving me good publicity? I will cooperate with them while they are doing that.*I could go to jail for a few days, and that would be the best publicity.”
bopha@cambodiadaily.com, willemyns@cambodiadaily.com
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