National Assembly President Heng Samrin accused four Funcinpec lawmakers of months-long absences from parliament Wednesday, and said the ruling CPP would support a law barring royals from politics.
Heng Samrin, who is also CPP honorary president, said Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Princess Norodom Vacheara, Prince Norodom Sirivudh and Princess Norodom Rattana Devi have all been absent from parliament for months on end.
“They are lawmakers but they are not responsible about their jobs. They always ask to be absent. They should stay outside politics if they don’t fulfill their duties,” he said.
The CPP will not introduce a bill to bar royals from politics. However, the ruling party would encourage other parties or royalists themselves to do so, said Heng Samrin, adding that the CPP would then support such legislation.
“We want to place royal families at the highest level [in society],” he maintained, “and want them to be neutral so people respect them more.”
Prince Ranariddh has not attended parliament since he resigned as Assembly president in March, Heng Samrin said.
Prince Sirivudh has rarely been seen there since he was removed from his position as co-minister of interior the same month. Princess Vacheara also appears to have rarely visited parliament since March, while Princess Rattana Devi, Prince Ranariddh’s daughter, has seldom attended since July 2004.
Prince Ranariddh was outside Cambodia on Wednesday. Attempts to contact Prince Sirivudh, Princess Vacheara and Princess Rattana Devi were unsuccessful.
Prince Ranariddh’s spokesman Chea Chanboribo declined to comment on the allegations against the Funcinpec lawmakers, but accused Heng Samrin of double standards.
“Samdech Heng Samrin never commented when opposition lawmakers boycotted the session,” he said. He also noted that the Constitution allows royals to participate in politics.
“[Heng Samrin] must read the Constitution and comply with it,” he said.
Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Sisowath Santa, who regularly attends parliament along with fellow Funcinpec parliamentarians including Monh Saphan and Khieu San, said there is no reason to bar royals from politics.
“We participate in politics with great responsibility,” she said.
The absences of some royal lawmakers may come down to the fact that they have other work to do, Princess Santa said, adding that she attends parliament because she enjoys her work.
“I must be responsible because I am a lawmaker,” she added.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, head of the fledgling Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party, said Heng Samrin’s comments could indicate that the CPP is afraid of the royal family.
“This is politically motivated rather than the CPP trying to protect the monarchy,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who is in charge of Assembly salaries, said the four royals criticized by Heng Samrin continue to receive their $1,250 monthly salaries.