O NE of the King's most respected and long-term advisors has expressed disappointment
that every debate, law and action of the National Assembly has been unconstitutional.
Samdech Chakrei Nhiek Tioulong - a close Royal confidante for the past 51 years -
spoke to the Post in a rare interview shortly after the second anniversary of the
signing of the Constitution.
Nhiek Tioulong is one of three Royal representatives to the Constitutional Council
- the supreme body charged with making sure all government and court decisions comply
with the Constitution.
However, the Council's six other members (three from the Assembly and three from
the court) have still not been chosen.
Neither has the law been passed to create the Council.
"Legally, everything has been blocked," Nhiek Tioulong said.
"For example, the Assembly's internal rules should have been approved by the
"But because the Council does not exist, the internal rules have not been approved...
so all the functioning of the National Assembly have been illegal... the deliberations,
debates, even the laws, are, if not illegal, unconstitutional."
Nhiek Tioulong was the first Khmer to govern Phnom Penh after French rule; he was
Royal inspector of political affairs, and Minister of National Education and later
Finance during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum; he met Charles de Gaulle in France with
King Sihanouk and later claimed Battambang back from Thailand on behalf of His Majesty.
He was commander-in-chief of the armed forces till 1969. More recently, First Prime
Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh asked him to be an advisor to the Royal army (RCAF)
and the King asked him to be the RCAF's supreme advisor. He was appointed the supreme
advisor to the Royal Palace, before his current job - at aged 88 - on the Council.
Nhiek Tioulong is the father of Saumura Tioulong, who recently resigned as deputy
governor of the National Bank, and father-in-law of Sam Rainsy.
"It is not just the Constitutional Council," he said. The Supreme Council
of Magistracy - the top independent judicial review body - is not functioning, neither
is there a Supreme Council of National Defense "and that should be chaired by
the King also," he said.
"Provincial administrations, and the administration of cities, towns and even
communes should be governed by laws that have not yet been adopted," Nhiek Tioulong
"From a legal point of view, the whole legal framework for the Cambodian State
has not yet been put in place," he said.
The King has been advised by his Council representatives of the existing problems
"but the King knows everything," he said.
"Of course I am disappointed, but because I am personally involved I did not
speak out... His Majesty knows about the Council.
"When Sam Rainsy was expelled by the National Assembly, (Assembly chairman)
Chea Sim wrote to him saying he could always appeal to the Constitutional Council.
The King wrote a note on that letter saying 'when is the Council going to be created?',"
King Sihanouk "knows everything but because he is the Constitutional Monarch
he leaves responsibility to the government... he doesn't want to get involved in
government matters to avoid criticisms [that] he wants to take power," he said.
When asked whether the King might do "something" if he felt that the government
was not honoring its Constitutional responsibilities, Nhiek Tioulong said: "I
hope so, but two years ago he said in Beijing that if things went wrong maybe he
would accept to take power one day.
"Now I see he contents himself to rule as Constitutional Monarch, exactly like
the Queen of England," he said.
When asked whether King Sihanouk might one day act not as the Queen of England, but
as the old King of Cambodia, he said: "I hope so personally, but I think the
King is aging, [now] is different than when he was King during the independence [moves]
Nhiek Tioulong said he thought the Constitutional Council was a key point. Not only
government leaders and MPs, but the whole population could approach the Council on
violations of the Constitution "and presently there are violations everyday".
The "food before democracy" debate put forward by Ranariddh was "not
one I have to judge... that is the opinion of the Prime Minister but it is debatable,"
"I limit my comments to the Constitution... when people wanted it they adopted
it very hastily. [But now] no-one cares about the Constitution, and no-one cares
to implement it."
He said of course people had to be taken care of before a Constitution "but
the population is already being helped... international organizations are here".
"People hastily built a house, but they forget to build a roof to protect it
from the rain, so the house cannot be inhabited."
"I have served my country since I was 21... I have personally done my duty...
My time is done now, it's the young people who have to start working," he said.
"From a legal technical point of view I can still help from the inside."
Cambodia had suffered beyond imagination; civil war and foreign occupations had totally
destroyed all the structures of the former Sangkum Reastr Niyum. "Since the
King arrived the country has started to relaunch something from nothing."
"We lack everything. Forests are being pillaged and people are starving, they
go naked; the government lacks competent technicians, so we have to go from there.
[But] I wonder about the survival of the Cambodian nation.
"If the King was 40 years old of course he could work more, but he is 73 and
The King "would be totally able to save the country... during the Indochinese
War the conditions in the country were worse than now," he said.
"The King had just acceded to the throne and through his efforts we obtained
independence from France and he put Cambodia back on its feet.
"Unfortunately the crazy Cambodians have put Cambodia back to zero," Nhiek