As the National Assembly prepares to examine constitutional amendments for the creation of a Senate, the King on Tuesday urged the government to consider opposing views.
The King sent a Monday letter from opposition leader Sam Rainsy to Prince Ranariddh, Funcinpec head and National Assembly president; CPP President Chea Sim; Heng Samrin, acting National Assembly president; and Prime Minister Hun Sen. “I would like to…ask you to please examine carefully the ideas suggested by Sam Rainsy…” he wrote.
Sam Rainsy is seeking to block passage of the amendment, “an illegal, undemocratic way of appointing senators,” he said in a phone call from Bangkok.
The draft is now in committee at the National Assembly. The Permanent Committee sent it to the Legislative Commission for review Monday before the Permanent Committee votes on it.
Sam Rainsy termed the legislative process “a violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution…of popular will as expressed in the July 26 elections, where there was no question of constitutional revision, and a violation of…the  Paris Peace Accords which mentions a popular referendum” as the way to pass an amendment.
The Senate was the brainchild of the Nov 12-13 CPP-Funcinpec summit. Funcinpec secured the Assembly presidency for the prince, while the CPP gained support for Hun Sen as prime minister. The parties agreed to create an upper house to give Chea Sim, former Assembly president, a leadership position.
But the Sam Rainsy Party and rights workers have criticized the Senate proposal as costly and an undemocratic compromise to create more political positions.
In the draft, the Senate would have up to 61 members—two appointed by the King, two chosen by the Assembly. The rest are to be chosen by a “universally indirect” election.
According to Article 159 of the proposed amendment, for the first 5-year Senate term, the King will appoint the first and second deputies as well as two members. The King is then to appoint the other members at the request of the Senate president (Chea Sim), the National Assembly president (Prince Ranariddh), and the prime minister (Hun Sen).
Thun Saray, president of the rights organization Adhoc, said last month he was skeptical about a Senate. Without a referendum by the public, the whole process is undemocratic, he said.
If the Standing Committee approves the amendment, it will turn the proposed amendments over to the general Assembly for debate. National Assembly approval requires a two-thirds vote.
But legal analyst Ira Dassa said approval is inevitable since the proposal was put forth by CPP and Funcinpec parliamentarians whose parties dominate the Assembly, “It’s a done deal already.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Decherd and Kimsan Chantara)