Mass absences by Funcinpec lawmakers left the National Assembly without a quorum for the fifth time in two weeks, with 16 of the 43 royalist legislators failing to show up.
Many of those instead attended a religious ceremony at Funcinpec headquarters to commemorate party members who were killed in the July 1997 fighting. Incense sticks were lit and the party’s flag flown at half-mast.
Friday marked the 5th anniversary of the start of three days of bloody street battles between Funcinpec fighters and government troops that left some 50 dead. Dozens more, including some senior Funcinpec military officials, were killed afterwards.
Those who did attend Friday’s assembly session wore black ties as a reminder of the royalists who died in the fighting or its aftermath, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ban on political parties commemorating the event.
The Sam Rainsy Party says it will hold its own ceremony today to pay respect to the victims of the fighting.
July 1997 is seen by many as the point when Prime Minister Hun Sen wrestled control of the government away from then-co Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The prince on Friday did not follow his party member’s lead and wear black, prompting one of his party members to say Prince Ranariddh feared being accused by the CPP of defying the premier’s orders.
“[But] black is not the only color of mourning. We can put on a red tie or a purple tie. We’re mourning in our minds and we are grateful to [slain party members],” Prince Ranariddh told reporters after Friday’s assembly session was canceled.
The prince said he regretted having to close the session, saying, “We don’t fulfill our duties to the people.”
The assembly has recently been plagued by absences, forcing debate on the draft forestry law to stall repeatedly. Of the body’s 63 CPP lawmakers, only 52 were present Friday. Only 7 of 15 opposition lawmakers showed up.