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)