The government will not delegate power to retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s Supreme National Council on border issues, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday.
Comparing the formation of the council to an attempt to establish a second government, Hun Sen added that neighboring countries will not cooperate with Norodom Sihanouk on the matter either.
“There will be no one working with [Norodom Sihanouk], including Thailand, Vietnam and Laos,” the premier said, adding that the council “is not a government.”
“If [the council] became a government, what would Hun Sen’s government do at this moment?” Hun Sen asked at a graduation ceremony at the University of Law and Economic Sciences. “What is the basis to give power to [the council]?”
Hun Sen also noted that Norodom Sihanouk has retired.
“If power is given to the former King, then where will the new King live?” he asked.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Princess Vacheara, a Funcinpec lawmaker, have been pushing for the empowerment of the border council, Hun Sen said. Both are members of the council, which is chaired by the retired King.
In a letter posted on his Web site Wednesday, Norodom Sihanouk said he will be in Cambodia in less than 10 days but will remain tight-lipped on politics during his stay, which he said will last a little longer than a month.
“During my stay…I will not be able to answer questions that some of you would like to ask me because one should not forget that I am retired, very old and sick, and have already promised not to involve myself in politics, nor to write or speak of the situation or problems in Cambodia today,” Norodom Sihanouk wrote.
However, he added: “As a Cambodian citizen, of course I have the right to express myself. In this regard, if I have something to say, I will tell you—inevitably (as you know very well)—in my text that one can read at my Web site.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Wednesday that a fully empowered border council would not be a threat to Hun Sen’s authority.
“Hun Sen should not worry about this power,” Son Chhay said, adding that the council is needed to address encroachment on Cambodia’s borders by neighboring countries.
Suth Dina, president of the ultra-nationalist Khmer Front Party, accused the prime minister of trying to “block the former King from solving border problems.”
(Additional reporting by William Shaw)