King Norodom Sihanouk stated Monday that the prime minister has retracted an earlier suggestion that the monarch preside over Saturday’s National Assembly meeting at the behest of pro-CPP soldiers and police.
Hun Sen last week told the King he should convene the meeting because RCAF and the national police desired his presence. But a letter issued Monday by King Sihanouk said the prime minister changed the statement.
“Samdech Hun Sen just informed me that the RCAF, national police, CPP civil servants and supporters dare not threaten the King. So, the announcement should be considered null and void,” the King’s statement said.
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith denied Monday that Hun Sen had communicated with the King since their Sept 16 meeting.
“Hun Sen had one meeting with the King. He has not met the King anymore. Hun Sen made no comments and has not met with the King since,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith also rejected the notion that Hun Sen threatened the King. The prime minister, he said, simply advised the King on the state of the nation.
Hun Sen was saying that “he heard the police and the army have concerns on the situation. And he said from all the people, civil servants and even the traders have stopped [selling] the merchandise,” Khieu Kanharith said. “He does not want the King to delay the meeting for three or four weeks.”
King Sihanouk said last week that he would not kowtow to pressure from the CPP and, as a matter of principle, would not attend the meeting. The King offered Senate President Chea Sim, who is also president of the CPP, as a substitute. The Alliance of Democrats considers the proposal inappropriate and unacceptable.
Alliance leaders closed a four-hour meeting Monday afternoon, reaffirming that Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians would boycott the Assembly unless Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s demands are met.
The prince has demanded that the King and at least 120 of the 123 newly elected parliamentarians join the meeting, and that the convention be held at the Royal Palace.
“We are ready to attend the new National Assembly meeting, but it must be under the royal patronage of His Majesty the King,” Prince Ranariddh said Monday morning.
In a step toward compromise, Sam Rainsy said he would postpone election complaints calling for a vote recount in Svay Rieng and Kompong Thom provinces to legitimize the Assembly—if the prince’s requests are honored.
According to the Constitution, the Assembly may not legally form with unresolved election complaints.
But Constitutional Council member Say Bory said Monday evening that the opposition complaints did not compromise the Assembly’s legitimacy because the Constitutional Council dismissed them last month.
Constitutional Council members held an emergency meeting Monday to respond to a letter Prince Ranariddh sent the King concerning his demands.
A statement from Council President Bin Chhin clarified earlier advice given to the King to go to the meeting. The Council said it only suggested, but did not order, that the King attend, Bin Chhin said. According to the Constitution, the King may offer a substitute in his place, so long as the privilege is not abused.
The Council declared that the first meeting must be held at the Assembly or be declared void. The swearing-in must take place before the King, which may be held at the Royal Palace.
The Council determined there is no stipulation requiring 120 parliamentarians to attend the first session, even though Article 76 states that “the Assembly consists of at least 120 members.” However, “other processes” may require 120 members, the Council determined.
“The members of parliament already have a house. So they just inaugurate and stay,” Say Bory said. “If anyone doesn’t join the King’s convention, they can visit the sea.”
The Council determined that 87 parliamentarians, not 120, are required to reach a quorum and approve the Assembly president and deputy president, Say Bory said.
“It’s only an inauguration, so it doesn’t matter how many members attend under the King’s convention. Officially, it is created,” he said. “
A Funcinpec statement on Monday disagreed with the Council’s interpretation and defended the Funcinpec parliamentarians who might boycott Saturday’s meeting.
Funcinpec argued that the allocation of seats to only those parliamentarians present at the first meeting would be a violation of the law and the Constitution.
“Not attending the opening of the first National Assembly, which is not legal, cannot be described as abandoning the seat by the party that did not join the meeting,” the statement said.
(Reporting by Lor Chandara, Kim Chan, Nhem Chea Bunly, Thet Sambath and Kate Woodsome)