King Advised To Convene Parliament

The Constitutional Council on Thursday advised King Norodom Sihanouk to attend the opening of the new National Assembly next week, just days after the King announced he would not participate in the swearing-in ceremony.

“The King’s presence at the first National Assembly meeting is very significant for the nation and this top institution,” Bin Chhin, pres­i­dent of the council, wrote in a letter to the King. “We, therefore, would like to advise you that you should convene the first [session] of the third legislative National Assembly.”

The letter came in response to a written inquiry from the King asking the council whether he should attend the meeting. King Siha­nouk wrote to the council after meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday evening.

Hun Sen “told me that the RCAF, national police and all levels of civil servants and an overwhelming majority of the people requested to ask me to go to the Cambodian National Assembly to open the third legislature of the National Assembly on Sept 27, 2003,” the King wrote.

Earlier this week, King Siha­nouk said he would not open the legislature after opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party’s

26 elected parliamentarians would not attend.

That Hun Sen mentioned RCAF and national police in his appeal could be considered a threat to the King, council member Son Sou­bert said on Thursday.

“It is very troublesome for us. The way it is worded is like a threat to the King,” Son Soubert said. “We are not happy with the prime minister telling the King the armed forces and the police want him to go.”

He added, “From my point of view, it would be a constitutional crisis” if the Assembly did not convene before Sept 27. But, he said, the Constitution does not stipulate that the King must actually be present for the swearing-in of new lawmakers.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanha­rith said he was confident enough participants would attend for the session to be held.

“I don’t think anyone’s crazy enough not to attend,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith on Thursday repeated Hun Sen’s earlier stance that the CPP would not form a coalition government with the Sam Rainsy Party.

But he said that members of the ruling party were holding unofficial meetings with high-level Funcinpec officials—a charge that members of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party’s Alliance of Democrats strongly denied.

Funcinpec security adviser Serey Kosal said Wednesday that there was increasing discontent within his party over the current Hun Sen-led government, particularly after the prime minister’s dismissal of 17 Funcinpec government officials last week.

“Nobody has the motivation to sit in his office and do work under this kind of intimidation,” he said.

Serey Kosal said Funcinpec would discuss the party’s next step at its steering committee meeting on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Nhem Chea Bunly)


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