Official Says King Sihamoni to Leave Phnom Penh for China

King Norodom Sihamoni will leave Cambodia for Beijing today, an official confirmed Sunday.

“His majesty the King is leaving tomorrow some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.,” said municipal traffic police chief Heng Chantheary, who was forewarned of the departure so as to clear the way for the royals. 

A Royal guard, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the public, also confirmed the King’s departure and said he would leave around 8 a.m. accompanied by his mother, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath.

A member of the Royal Family, speaking on the condition of anony­mity, said King Sihamoni was visiting Beijing for a medical checkup.

King Sihamoni’s departure comes just two weeks after a national election that saw both main parties claim victory, and which has resulted in a political impasse. Under Cambodia’s Constitution, the King is supposed to convene the first session of Parliament within sixty days of the polls.

“He calls for the first meeting of the National Assembly and for the proposed candidate for Prime Minister from the winning party,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

It was unclear on Sunday just how long King Sihamoni intends to stay in China. However, should he still be absent in September when the first sitting of Parliament is due to take place, he could be replaced in his role by the acting Senate president, Mr. Panha said.

“In the previous experience they still proceed…acting Senate president can play that role,” he said, referring to the yearlong post-election stalemate following the 2003 election.

Then, the CPP won a majority of seats but not the two thirds of seats necessary at the time to govern alone.

The CPP finally struck a deal with Funcinpec to form a coalition, which required changes to the Constitution and needed the late King Father Norodom Siha­nouk to sign off on them.

However, the King Father had flown to China for medical treatment, and the responsibility fell to Senate President Chea Sim as acting head of state.

But Mr. Sim too left the country, claiming he was seeking medical expertise in Thailand—though it was believed he had refused to sign off on the changes. The responsibility ultimately fell to then-Deputy Senate President Nhiek Bun Chhay.

The CPP claimed victory on July 28 with 68 seats to the opposition’s 55, but the opposition says they won 63 of the seats, giving them a clear majority.

The opposition CNRP have indicated they may boycott the opening of Parliament scheduled for September if there is not an investigation into alleged irregularities.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said about a week ago that if they did so it could be seen as treasonous. “When the King invites you and you refuse to attend, it means you oppose the King,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kate Bartlett)

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