Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy are both scheduled to greet King Norodom Sihamoni on his return from China this afternoon, the first time the perennial political rivals will be in the same place at the same time since July’s contested national election.
Though Mr. Hun Sen’s ruling CPP officially won the vote, Mr. Rainsy’s CNRP still claims victory for itself amid unresolved reports of widespread voting irregularities.
Constitutionally bound to convene the first session of Parliament after each election, the King announced Monday that he would invite all elected lawmakers to the first sitting at the Assembly on September 23. But the CNRP has vowed to boycott the meeting.
Mr. Rainsy confirmed his plans to go to the airport to greet the King.
“I will go alone to pay my respects to the King, regardless of who else will be there,” Mr. Rainsy said Tuesday.
Oum Daravuth, a Royal Palace Cabinet member, said the King was scheduled to return from China about 4 p.m. where he has been since mid-August receiving a medical checkup.
Asked if Mr. Hun Sen would be in attendance at the airport, Mr. Daravuth said: “Yes.” He also added that Mr. Rainsy and National Assembly President Heng Samrin were all expected to attend.
Senior CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap said it was normal for Mr. Hun Sen to attend all the King’s departures and arrivals but could not confirm that he would be at the airport today.
Asked about Mr. Rainsy’s own plans to be there, he said all opposition members were welcome.
“They are not prohibited from going. The King is for everyone,” Mr. Yeap said.
The potential meeting between Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy has strong echoes of 2008, when the two men met for the first time days after that year’s national election at the airport to see the King off on a trip to China.
Then, Mr. Rainsy was also threatening to boycott the first session of the Assembly to protest election day irregularities he blamed for the opposition’s loss at the polls.
At the airport, Mr. Hun Sen was overheard telling Mr. Rainsy that the opposition’s Assembly seats would be given away to other parties if he went through with the boycott.
Mr. Hun Sen has threatened to give the opposition’s seats away again this time around.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)