King Norodom Sihamoni flew to Beijing on Monday, accompanied by Queen Mother Norodom Monineath for a routine medical checkup, but will return to Cambodia to preside over the opening session of the fifth mandate of the National Assembly, according to a statement released by the Royal Palace.
The timing of the monarch’s departure has raised eyebrows coming just two weeks after last month’s national election saw both main parties claim victory, and on the same day that the National Election Committee released its official preliminary election results amid an ongoing dispute over voting irregularities.
As head of state, the King is designated by the Constitution to convene the first session of Parliament within 60 days of the polls. In the King’s absence, the responsibility falls to Senate President Chea Sim—who is also president of the ruling CPP.
“During my absence from the country, Samdech Chea Sim, president of the Senate, will be acting head of state,” the statement said, adding that he will return in time to convene Parliament’s next session—scheduled for September.
According to the statement, the King makes a regular, scheduled visit to Beijing every six months for a medical checkup, staying for between 10 days and two weeks.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Deputy Senate President Say Chhum and other members of the government and Royal Family gave the king a send off at Phnom Penh International Airport. Newly appointed Chinese Ambassador Bu Jianguo was also present.
The King and Queen Mother will attend the Asian Youth Games athletic tournament in Jiangsu province’s Nanjing City, which is held from August 16 to 24, the statement says.