CNRP Sends King Official Boycott Announcement

The opposition CNRP wrote to King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday to officially notify him of their threat to boycott the scheduled opening session of the National Assembly on Monday unless a favorable deal with the ruling CPP is reached.

Negotiations between the two parties to settle their differences over July’s disputed national election appear stalled, with both sides claiming to be waiting on the other to return to the negotiating table.

Monks on Phnom Penh's Sisowath Quay meditate behind barricades manned by armed police officers on Thursday. The blockades were set up to prevent the monks from reaching the Royal Palace, where they planned to pray for King Norodom Sihamoni to reconsider his decision to convene the National Assembly on Monday. (Siv Channa)
Monks on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay meditate behind barricades manned by armed police officers on Thursday. The blockades were set up to prevent the monks from reaching the Royal Palace, where they planned to pray for King Norodom Sihamoni to reconsider his decision to convene the National Assembly on Monday. (Siv Channa)

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann declined to provide a copy of the letter that was sent to the Palace, but he said King Sihamoni was informed in the letter that the opposition will boycott the inaugural meeting of parliament on Monday if talks with the CPP are not successful.

“If we cannot find justice for the people, cannot find a solution, we will boycott the first session,” Mr. Sovann said.

The CNRP, which is disputing the CPP’s official win in the July 28 poll, received a letter from the King on Wednesday that urged the opposition’s 55 lawmakers-elect to take their seats on Monday. It was King Sihamoni’s second letter inviting the opposition to attend.

Such a possibility, however, appears to be a long way off.

The two parties have not talked since Tuesday morning, and Mr. Sovann said no additional talks were scheduled.

“We are waiting for a response from the CPP because we have told everything to the CPP,” he said.

Just as he had on Wednesday, however, Prak Sokhon, a CPP secretary of state at the Council of Ministers who is taking part in the talks, said the onus on restarting negotiations was with the opposition.

“This is up to them now,” he said Thursday.

In its own letter sent to the King on Thursday, the CPP reiterated its plans to attend the opening session of parliament no matter what.

Senior CPP lawmaker and de facto party spokesman Cheam Yeap said the letter came out of a meeting that morning between Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP’s 68 lawmakers-elect.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen asked all the elected lawmakers not to go anywhere because they must go to attend the meeting” at the Assembly on Monday, Mr. Yeap said.

If the opposition ultimately chose to boycott, Mr. Yeap added, “it means that they don’t respect the Constitution and they don’t follow His Majesty.”

The CNRP’s Mr. Sovann said the chances the boycott would proceed now stood at roughly “80 percent.”

Mr. Hun Sen had warned the opposition that the National Election Committee (NEC), widely perceived to favor the CPP, could give the CNRP’s hard-won 55 seats to his CPP. The threat provoked uproar, and analysts and lawyers have disputed the legality of such a move and whether the NEC could even attempt such drastic action. Mr. Sokhon also attempted to backtrack on the prime minister’s warning of the right to redistribute the opposition’s parliamentary seats.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen made two points,” Mr. Sokhon said. “One is a boycott and another is relinquishing seats. The CNRP just boycotts, so there will be no need to redistribute seats.”

Election laws say the NEC can give a party’s seats away, but only if that party “declares to abandon” its seats or loses its spot on the government’s list of official parties. The CNRP has done neither.

Mr. Yeap insisted the CPP could still form the next government with its own 68 lawmakers even if the opposition boycotts, but did not explain how that would be possible.

The Constitution requires the National Assembly to have at least 120 members present.

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