New Council Session Called

Members of the Constitutional Council have been called to a meeting scheduled for Monday after two previous attempts to convene the body failed because of boycotts by royal appointees. 

Appointees to the supreme legal appeals body confirmed Thursday they had received a letter calling for a meeting, signed by fellow council member Pung Peng Cheng.

The first attempt to convene the council on June 3 failed when the two most senior members, Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum and Son Sann, apparently boycotted the meeting. On a second attempt two days later, Pung Peng Cheng also failed to show up. Family members cited his reservations about the legality of the council’s formation.

As the final arbiter in disputes arising from the elections, the Constitutional Council is seen as crucial to legitimizing the electoral process. But opposition critics, as well as Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum and Son Sann, have complained the government has bulldozed legal procedures to form a council weighted in its favor.

Pung Peng Cheng was unavailable for comment Thursday on why he decided to call the meeting, but a family member said he would speak at a press conference Saturday.

Regulations governing the organization of the council stipulate the oldest member “present” must convene the council. In the absence of Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum and Son Sann, Pung Peng Cheng, 81, is the most senior council member.

The Sam Rainsy Party on Thurs­­day, however, questioned the legality of Pung Peng Cheng convening the meeting, saying it was unclear whether the law referred to members “present” at the meeting, the swearing-in ceremony, or simply in Cambodia.

The Sam Rainsy Party said two options now existed to make the council legitimate: Change the law or replace some members to reflect “the diversity of political backgrounds that is necessary for the nation’s highest body.”

(Ad­ditional reporting by Khuy Sok­hoeun)

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