As the National Assembly opened its session Monday, King Norodom Sihanouk reminded lawmakers of next year’s national elections—a message some saw as a thinly veiled warning to stop election-related violence.
The King’s message, read by Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh to start the three-month session, congratulated the Assembly for its good work and said the lawmakers “have strong potential to fulfill their new duty, to make the 2003 general election successful and safe.”
Speaking outside the Assembly, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the statement “shows that the King is concerned about the current situation of political violence…. This message is a reminder to all leaders to avoid any violence.”
Prince Ranariddh said he was forbidden to discuss his father’s message by the Constitution, which declares the King inviolable. The prince told the Assembly that the current session probably would be its last. While another session, starting in May, is possible before the July elections, parliamentarians will be too busy campaigning for their parties, Prince Ranariddh said.
In Monday’s session, the Assembly passed an amendment to the 1995 Finance Law altering the schedule of the national budgeting process.
During this session, the Assembly plans to debate the government’s 2001 expenditures and its planned 2003 budget as well as ratifying some international conventions. The long-awaited domestic violence law is tentatively scheduled to be considered in mid-December, but other prominent pieces of legislation that have been pending for years are not likely to be discussed—such as an anti-corruption law, a law to reform the royal succession process and a massive overhaul of the penal code.
Lawmakers returned Monday to a meeting room boasting a new system of individual electronic consoles. The consoles allow electronic voting and include individual microphones and speakers.