How the nation will select a replacement for King Norodom Sihanouk has rarely been debated since the creation of the Throne Council in the 1993 Constitution.
But opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay wants to change that. The Sam Rainsy Party member said he has drafted a bill that would clarify how the elite council would select the next monarch. He pointed out that the current selection process is vague and potentially problematic.
The nine-member council is empowered to decide who will become the next king of Cambodia’s monarchy, but the Constitution does not say how many members of the council must agree on a choice.
In Son Chhay’s draft bill, two-thirds of the Throne Council must agree on the successor.
“I don’t know how far my draft can go,” Son Chhay said Wednesday, adding he hoped it could act as a framework to improve the existing process. “It’s a touchy issue.”
He said he sent a copy to King Sihanouk for his input but the monarch responded that he could not comment.
The draft bill was submitted in December to the Assembly’s secretariat, Son Chhay said. But it has not been discussed by the permanent committee, according to Ky Lim Ang, a Funcinpec lawmaker. It’s unclear if and when the draft will be debated on the Assembly floor.
CPP loyalists hold five of the nine seats on the Throne Council, which means the nation’s dominant party could decide who is Cambodia’s next King. Funcinpec loyalists hold the other four seats.
A bill that asks for greater than a simple majority “could provoke quarrels between party members,” Son Chhay said. “Politically, this is a big kind of decision.”
Lao Mong Hay, executive director for the Khmer Institute of Democracy, noted the current way of selecting a king is generally good. “A very democratic system,” he said.
But he noted that the Constitution is too vague on how many members of the Throne Council must agree on the King’s successor. “This is a problem.”
He added that another option would be to amend the Constitution, allowing Queen Monineath to succeed her husband as Regent.
Under the current Constitution, she is not eligible.
Son Chhay’s draft bill seems to have received little reaction from the CPP and Funcinpec so far.
“I don’t know about this,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tol Lah, who is also secretary-general for Funcinpec. “Ask the Sam Rainsy Party about this.”
Khieu Kanharith (CPP), spokesman for the government, said Thursday: “I don’t have any comment yet on this point. I have to analyze it first.”