The third-eldest royal appointee of the Constitutional Council announced he will resign from the body after he chairs its first meeting today.
Pung Peng Cheng told a press conference Saturday he would leave the council because he is too old to carry out the work that membership entails.
This latest turn of events comes after two failed attempts earlier this month to convene the council, which is the final arbiter on the constitutionality of laws and a key factor in legitimizing in the elections.
Opposition critics as well its eldest members, Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum and Son Sann, have complained that the government has weighted the council in its favor.
The two senior royal appointees have boycotted the meetings and Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum has alleged that intimidation by senior government officials caused him to leave the country.
In a Friday letter to Son Sann, Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum, who
is believed to be in France, said his position was unchanged. He also said that according to the law, only Son Sann, as the next oldest member, has the right to convene and preside over the first meeting “if [he] judges that all the legal conditions have been fulfilled.”
A spokesman for Son Sann said Sunday that Pung Peng Cheng cannot convene a meeting and that today’s scheduled gathering is “illegal.” Pung Peng Cheng refused to comment on the questions of legality hanging over the body or the boycott. He said that he called Monday’s meeting out of a sense of duty not to obstruct the elections.
“When I got the information that [Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum and Son Sann] did not want to come and royal decrees have appointed the six members, I decided I have to lead this meeting,” Pung Peng Cheng said.
This is the second meeting that he has convened, but he failed to appear for the first, scheduled for June 5. Pung Peng Cheng said he had called the meeting at the request of the other members, but on condition that he first speak with Son Sann and Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum.
He could not reach either of them so he did not go to the meeting, he explained.
The 81-year-old said he will announce his intention to resign following today’s meeting, during which the president of the council is to be selected.
But he said his resignation will not take effect until King Norodom Sihanouk has appointed a replacement, so that the council will still be able to function.
(Additional reporting by Kimsan Chantara)