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King makes appeal for resolution

In a rare public statement, King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday weighed in on the disputed election, calling for the parties to reach a “peaceful” resolution.

“For the interest of the nation and our people, and for peace and national stability, I would like to appeal to the two political parties that people have voted for ... to continue to find a peaceful solution to the dispute and the remaining issues,” reads the brief statement, issued last night.

“I also would like to appeal to all people to stay calm for the dignity of the nation and continue to conduct business peacefully.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Tuesday warned of mass demonstrations unless final election results reflected a Cambodia National Rescue Party win. The government, meanwhile, has warned against instability and hinted at violent retaliation. Calls by the opposition to have an international investigation into irregularities in an election that saw it win 55 seats to the ruling party’s 68 – based on preliminary government figures – have been met with staunch refusal, with Prime Minister Hun Sen threatening to legally confiscate all their seats should they boycott.

Though the King has studiously avoided wading into politics, analysts have increasingly pointed to him as a potential mediator in a dispute that shows little signs of waning.

The letter makes no mention of mediation, dispute resolution or special committees, but both political parties yesterday treated it as a turning point and the likely key to a solution.

“On behalf of the CNRP, we would like to thank the King for the royal comment on the situation. It means the King is very concerned and wants to solve the problem peacefully,” spokesman Yim Sovann said.

Neither the palace nor the government had been in touch with the party regarding royal involvement, Sovann said, but the CNRP welcomed the King’s involvement.

“We wish the King [will] play a role in this situation. We trust and respect the King.”

A joint investigation committee first floated by the CNRP and publicly proposed by Hun Sen fell apart after only a day when the opposition refused to attend because a UN presence was rejected.

Sovann said he read the statement as targeted to “those who want to use the armed forces”, noting that his party – though they threatened demonstrations – had no means of violence.

“Violence comes from the armed forces.... I think the advice [to remain peaceful] is very powerful.”

Similarly, the CPP interpreted the statement in its own favour, with National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun saying the letter echoed its continued calls for a peaceful negotiation.

“The ruling CPP completely supports the King’s letter, which calls for continuing to talk peacefully.... Our stance has so far not changed: It is to negotiate peacefully. We want to work together for the interest of the people and for national security.”

Vun stressed, once again, that the government was unable to allow international involvement based on “the procedure of the law”.

If the opposition wished to protest that stance, he continued, they had the right to do so.

“But they cannot allow [the protestors] to cause any chaos,” he said.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a nephew of and former aide to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, said he had little doubt the King would prove the means of ending the deadlock.

“To me, I think that King Sihamoni has a major role to play – he’s the key to peace and stability,” said Thomico, who is also a CNRP lawmaker candidate.

Likening the situation to that of Spain in 1981, when a coup attempt was forestalled by King Juan Carlos I’s televised speech, in which he beseeched armed forces to resist an overthrow, Thomico said Sihamoni was up to the task.

“In the end, it was Juan Carlos who saved Spain from entering a new civil war. I think King Sihamoni will play the same role: He will be the one to put an end to the situation.”

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