Pressure on King Norodom Sihamoni to delay today’s planned opening of the National Assembly ratcheted up a few notches over the weekend as the Royal Palace received two rounds of petitions allegedly representing close to 500,000 citizens requesting more time for party negotiations.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 55 elected lawmakers have pledged to boycott today’s ceremony, while the King has maintained he must open the assembly due to constitutional provisions.
Yesterday, about 300 people from 10 civil society groups gathered in front of police barricades at Sisowath Quay blocking the way to the Royal Palace.
Both police and the crowd remained calm, and representatives from four associations were eventually allowed past the barricades to hand over their petition to the King’s representatives outside the palace.
“Our petition simply asks our King to delay the first meeting of the National Assembly because the two parties do not agree with each other yet,” Vorn Pao, head of the Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), said.
“[We ask the King] because [he] is the person who ensures peace in the country and the country is not yet at peace.”
Other groups represented included the recently formed Independent Monk Network, the Cambodian Youth Network and the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation.
The 10 groups presented the petition on behalf of more than 200,000 people, Pao said.
A group of opposition activists was also blocked by security forces while trying to deliver a different petition on Saturday.
According to CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, more than 260,000 signatures were collected in 24 hours from around the country before being sent to Phnom Penh.
“Originally they did not want the petition to reach the King, but finally in the afternoon we could … because we spoke to the Royal Palace and delivered [many] boxes of signatures,” he said, adding that the King had not yet replied to the petition.
Ho Dino, a palace official who received yesterday’s petition, promised a reply but did not specify a date, Pao said.
Theng Savoeun, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, said his organisation was bringing 15 vans full of people to march on the palace yesterday when they were blocked by police on National Road 2 in Kandal.
“We just want to express our pain and ask the King not to [open the assembly] so we can stand up to demand democracy and freedom,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it was “possible but not probable” that the King would summon both leaders to meet with him this morning in response to public pressure.
“He should say: ‘Both of you, come, I need your advice.’”