Young King May Attend to Neglected Duties

A young, energetic, new king may be better able to carry out the constitutionally mandated duties left unfulfilled during his father’s reign, lawmakers and observers said Thursday.

Under the Constitution, King Norodom Sihamoni, 51, replaces retired King Norodom Sihanouk not only as the country’s head of state, but as the supreme commander of RCAF, chairman of the Supreme Council of National Defense and guarantor of the judiciary’s independence.

He also takes on the role of chairman of the National Con­gress—an annual public forum that has never been established—as well as the protector of citizens’ rights and freedoms. King Sihamoni will also be responsible for meeting with the prime minister and Council of Ministers twice a month to hear about the state of the nation—another function that has yet to be carried out.

“The new king will more actively carry out his responsibilities as stated in the Constitution be­cause he is young, healthy and energetic,” said Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP parliamentarian, Thurs­day.

Norodom Sihanouk, who turns 82 on Oct 31, often complained that the Constitution prevented him from fulfilling the same duties that it required, due to an article that states the king “shall reign but shall not govern.”

Over the past year, he has lambasted the government for cracking down on public demonstrations and has openly criticized the judiciary for being corrupt, with little effect.

Though the Constitution re­stricts the king’s power, that doesn’t mean he can’t control what happens to his nation, opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay said.

Through twice monthly meetings with the premier and the creation of a National Congress, modeled on open meetings be­tween politicians and the populace under Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime, King Sihamoni can exert his influence on policy-making within the framework of the law, Son Chhay said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, agreed.

“If he’d like to improve the different aspects of the situation of the country, he can use this op­portunity” to directly question the prime minister on government decisions, Thun Saray said.

He added that a National Congress, during which the public can raise ideas and concerns, could help the new king better understand the situation of his people, after having lived much of his life abroad.

Cheam Yeap said regular meet­ings between the former king and Prime Minister Hun Sen did not occur because of Norodom Siha­nouk’s poor health.


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