Allegiances Tested as Assembly Opens Today

Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party’s newly elected parliamentarians will not be present at this morning’s opening ceremony of the National Assembly, party officials said Friday, sticking to their earlier vow to stay out of the meeting.

“We’re not going to attend,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said.

Throughout the week, the Sam Rainsy Party was holding out for the suspension of two contested Assembly seats for Svay Rieng and Kompong Thom, pending a ballot recount in those provinces.

Funcinpec followed suit, saying its parliamentarians would not join the Assembly’s opening ceremony unless their counterparts from the Sam Rainsy Party attended. They said at least 120 Assembly members must be present at the ceremony, which must be presided over by King Norodom Sihanouk  at the Royal Palace .

But late Friday, Ung Bun-Ang said the Alliance of Democrats sent a letter to the King, agreeing to take part in the Assembly’s first session, regardless of these earlier conditions. However, he said, the meeting would have to be postponed until after today.

“This is a big gesture we’re making. We don’t want tension to affect the country,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

King Sihanouk on Friday repeated his wil­lingness to convene the meeting if all three parties were in attendance. If not, he said, Senate President Chea Sim, who is the CPP president, will represent him.

Despite the parties’ absence, the opening ceremony will go ahead as scheduled with Chea Sim presiding, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Friday. He added that those who do not show up will not be punished, but will not enter the Assembly following proper procedures. Those who attend will “come through the front gate,” he said. “Those who do not attend and come later go through the back gate.”

Today’s ceremony will not include the swearing-in of parliamentarians, said Chan Ven, CPP deputy secretary-general of the National Assembly. It will only involve a speech by the King’s representative to officially open the Assembly and a group photo, he said.


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