King Approves Creation of Border-Issues Council

Ahead of Wednesday’s inaugural meeting of the Supreme Nation­al Council on border issues in Bei­jing, King Norodom Sihamoni signed a royal decree on Monday, granting final approval of the council’s creation.

According to a copy of the royal decree, the seven-member Coun­cil, chaired by retired King Noro­dom Sihanouk, will research border issues, advise the government, act as a watchdog on border disputes with Cambodia’s neighboring countries, and report its findings to King Sihamoni.

All decisions made by the council must be unanimous, and de­bate must be kept secret, the de­cree states.

The royal decree was met with praise from political leaders, but some said the panel lacks the po­wer to be effective.

“We do not let anyone take our land,” said Heng Samrin, first vice president of the National Assem­bly. “I praise his majesty [retired King Sihanouk] for his spirit to be in charge of the border issue.”

Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, agreed. “I trust His Majesty,” he said.

But Pang Sokhoeun, president of the Students’ Movement for Democracy, said the royal de­cree doesn’t give retired King Si­hanouk full control over the council and its decisions.

He said the decree makes the border council “a group to consult and advise only” and that the real decision-ma­king power rests with the government.

He also took issue with the decision to keep the content of the council’s debates secret.

Thai Ambassador Piyawat Ni­yom­rerk said Monday that his gov­­ernment is prepared to cooperate with the new border council.

“In any circumstance, the Thai government will be pleased and will be ready to discuss the border issue with the delegation of Cam­bodia,” he said.

A representative from the Laotian Em­bassy would not comment Monday, and attempts to reach Vietnamese Embassy officials were unsuccessful.

Members of the Council are scheduled to meet with Norodom Sihanouk on Wednesday in Bei­jing, where he is receiving medical treatment.

(Additional reporting by Karen Hawkins and Lor Chandara)

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