King Norodom Sihamoni may soon intervene in the ongoing dispute over border issues between the government and opposition by calling their leaders to a meeting, according to former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Speaking on Saturday, Ranariddh claimed the King is planning to summon Prime Minister Hun Sen to a meeting with the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Sam Rainsy.
Ranariddh said he will also be invited, as president of the royalist party Funcinpec, calling it one of the “three big parties” despite the fact his party failed to secure a single seat in the National Assembly during elections in 2013.
“I heard that His Majesty the King, who is responsible for maintaining the territorial integrity of the country, wants to invite leaders of the three big parties to share ideas over territorial issues,” said Ranariddh, who previously served as co-prime minister between 1993 and 1997.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, who is a member of the CNRP, yesterday added weight to Ranariddh’s claim, saying that he expected such a meeting would take place, but that an agenda remains unclear and it is subject to the return of Rainsy from France.
“When he’s back, we’ll probably know more,” he said.
Yet an official on the King’s Cabinet, Um Daravuth, said he was not aware of any such meeting and could not confirm it would take place.
Speaking yesterday, he also highlighted the fact that Rainsy’s departure for a month-long trip to France last week would prevent such a meeting from taking place for a number of weeks.
Over recent months, the two main parties have clashed on the issue of territorial integrity.
The CNRP claims construction in Svay Rieng and a series of ponds dug in Ratanakkiri are evidence of Vietnamese encroachment across the border, and have criticised the inaction of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
In recent weeks, the CPP has shown signs of taking the issue on, with a series of diplomatic notes sent to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh over the ponds, and Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month requesting a copy of the map submitted to the United Nations by late King Norodom Sihanouk in 1964.
The prospect of the current King involving himself in the situation was yesterday welcomed by royal adviser Son Soubert, though he said he had no knowledge of such a plan.
“It would be a very good thing for all of the political parties to meet for the benefit of the country,” he said.
“In the constitution, the King is guarantor of the territorial integrity of the country, so the King must take interest in this.”
Soubert highlighted the fact that the King previously intervened in party politics in 2013, during a bitter dispute over the results of the national election that saw the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) cling to power despite widespread allegations of voting irregularities.
The King’s involvement was also welcomed by CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, who suggested he take a leading role in the matter, though he said no invitation for a such a meeting had been made to the party.
“I congratulate the royal idea of His Majesty the King,” he said. “If the King goes on to be Joint Border Committee chairman, it would be even better.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES PARKINSON