King Norodom Sihamoni on Sunday signed a royal decree dissolving the Supreme National Council on Border Affairs at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a copy of the decree faxed to the media.
The signing was also broadcast Monday morning on state-run TVK.
Hun Sen received support for the move from Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, according to a news release signed by the premier.
“We, both parties in the government, believe there is no longer a need to keep the Supreme National Council on Border Affairs,” reads the decree, which is dated Saturday. “We request Your Majesty sign this Royal Decree to annul the one dated April 27 on the formation of the SNCBA.”
The decree adds that there are already “sufficient mechanisms to solve border affairs.”
Retired King Norodom Sihanouk was appointed head of the council in April. He campaigned vigorously in that capacity, calling on students and border activists to go out and find cases of border infringement by Cambodia’s neighbors and report them back to him.
But his actions at times created friction with the prime minister, who pushed for the passage of a decree naming himself as the sole person with authority to negotiate border issues.
Norodom Sihanouk later resigned from the committee and complained that he had been given no real powers. A suitable replacement for the retired monarch was never named.
Prime Minister Hun Sen left Monday for Vietnam to discuss border issues at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.
The Cambodian delegation headed by Hun Sen will meet with Vietnamese officials to negotiate, among other issues, a controversial additional agreement to a 1985 border treaty that critics say ceded Cambodian land to Vietnam and is unfair because it was signed while the country was under Vietnamese occupation.
Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said that the move to dissolve the border council didn’t surprise him.
“The government dissolves the council because it cannot use it as a shield, a cover-up to keep them for being blamed for losing territory,” he claimed.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy resigned on Thursday from the council. “I don’t believe the SNCBA will have the power to solve border conflicts,” he wrote in an e-mail explaining his decision. “I and the SRP believe only in King-Father Norodom Sihanouk.”
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he was surprised and saddened by the dissolution of the council.
“I did not expect the government would dissolve the council,” he said.
But, he added, “I and others slowly lost hope as it became clear the King Father would have no real power.”
Nan Sy, president of Funcinpec’s border committee, said he supported the decree, but said that not granting Norodom Sihanouk enough power may have caused the council’s demise.
“Everyone knows no one can match the King Father, so his resignation amounted to [the SNCBA’s] automatic dissolving,” he said.
Var Kim Hong, chairman of the government’s border committee, defended his group’s actions at a Saturday roundtable .
“When we don’t work on the [border issue], they say we do not defend our territory,” he said. “When we do work on it, they say we give land away.”
Many border groups said they trusted the retired King’s abilities more than the government’s committee.