King Norodom Sihamoni will return from China tomorrow and preside over the opening session of the National Assembly on September 23, he announced yesterday – one day after the opposition party publicised its intention to boycott that session.
In a letter sent to National Election Committee president Im Suosdey, the King writes that he received notice of the final election results and was thus duly scheduling the first session of parliament.
“I will invite all elected parliamentarians for the first session on September 23 at the National Assembly,” he writes.
On August 12, the King left for Beijing on what was billed a routine and long-scheduled medical examination. His departure raised concern among some, who feared that a tense post-election atmosphere could spill into violence without the King’s presence.
Yesterday, an opposition party official said they were hopeful the King could yet broach a solution to the ongoing political deadlock.
“We asked the King to intervene to help to solve the problem.… And yesterday, we, [the] CNRP, sent a letter to the King to consider the petition [drawn up by supporters],” Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said.
“Any royal assistance the King can provide, any kind of assistance that can be provided to help to find justice for the voters [would be appreciated].”
On Sunday, the CNRP announced that lawmakers would boycott the opening session barring a thorough investigation into electoral irregularities. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has said it is too late for such an investigation and that talks could only be regarding the formation of the new government.
Yesterday, National Assembly spokesman and senior CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun reiterated the government’s claim that the body could go ahead regardless of CNRP involvement.
“If the Cambodia National Rescue Party [boycotts], the CPP will go ahead. And don’t put the blame on CPP,” Vun said. “The voters will blame the CNRP, asking why the party didn’t respect the will of the people and wouldn’t fulfil their obligation as the opposition party.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials have long maintained that in the event of a boycott, the CPP can simply occupy the “abandoned” seats. Though the party claims it can do so legally, experts have called it a blatant misinterpretation of the law.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH