Gov’t Is Cool To Idea of King’s Forum

The government does not want King Norodom Sihamoni to introduce a constitutionally mandated National Congress, fearing that such a public forum would spark violence between rival political supporters, government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday.

“We are afraid there would be fighting during the National Congress because right now there are many parties,” said Khieu Kanharith, who is the Min­istry of Information and CPP spokesman.

He added that several laws to establish the Congress would have to be adopted and that the government is too busy right now trying to deal with a nationwide drought and its 2005 national budget.

Under the 1993 Constitution, a National Congress, chaired by the King and attended by the prime minister, should convene each December to allow the public to air requests and grievances for the state to resolve. But the Congress has never been established.

The Constitution also requires the King to hold twice monthly briefing meetings with the prime minister. That has never happened either.

Since his ascension to the throne last month, observers have expressed hope that King Sihamoni would finally introduce the Congress.

But with an unwilling government, that won’t likely happen, said Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“During the National Con­gress, the Prime Minister also has to join. [But] I think [Prime Minister] Hun Sen is afraid to confront the villagers,” Kem Sokha said Wednesday.

He also criticized the government, claiming that government authorities have not let King Sihamoni hear the complaints of the crowds when he visits the provinces.

Kem Sokha said he met with retired King Norodom Sihanouk at the Royal Palace on Tuesday evening, where the elderly monarch told him that King Sihamoni will nevertheless meet with the public on a regular basis.

Norodom Sihanouk also said that groups of at least 60 people from across the country will be allowed to raise their complaints to King Sihamoni directly at the Palace, Kem Sokha said.

Kem Sokha added that he would personally select at least two people from each province as well as representatives of local associations to meet with King Siha­moni after the Water Fest­ival.

“I think when the King hears the direct complaints from villagers, it is better than from some­one who informs him,” Kem Sokha said. Complaints of corruption, land-grabbing and court injustices are plentiful, he added.

Kem Sokha said Norodom Sihanouk also told him that Hun Sen has agreed to meet with King Sihamoni twice monthly, as outlined in the Constitution.

“I think the King will have influence to ask the prime minister to solve the villagers’ problems,” Kem Sokha said.

Asked about Hun Sen’s agreement to such meetings, Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng de­clined to comment Wednes­day.

Norodom Sihanouk’s adviser Prince Sisowath Thomico said he was not aware of what had transpired in the Tuesday evening meeting with Kem Sokha, as he was not present.


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