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Chakrapong re-ignites Throne Council debate with election call

Chakrapong re-ignites Throne Council debate with election call

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chakra.jpg

Prince Norodom Chakrapong.

Prince Norodom Chakrapong has called for a national election to determine Cambodia's

next king, saying that was the only way to ensure the succession was free from political

interference.

Speaking at a forum on succession legislation organized by the Khmer Institute of

Democracy (KID) on August 10, Chakrapong said the current arrangement, whereby a

nine-member Throne Council will select the new monarch, was politically biased and

would damage the future king's credibility.

"If the next king is chosen by politicians, [he] will not be independent, will

not be able to serve the interests of the people, nor carry out his role as guarantor

of the Constitution," he said. "When the King cannot escape political influence,

how can he solve the people's problems if their interests clash with those of the

politicians?"

Prince Chakrapong, who is the son of King Norodom Sihanouk and half-brother to Funcinpec

leader Prince Norodom Ran-ariddh, described the current arrangement as a short-term

solution that lacked credibility.

The Throne Council is mandated under the Constitution to select the next king within

seven days of the reigning monarch's death. The subsidiary legislation under which

it would operate has not been passed by the National Assembly, although a draft was

recently lodged with the NA's legislative commission.

The Council has nine members: Prime Minister Hun Sen, the three top officials from

each of the Senate and the National Assembly, and the leaders of the country's two

Buddhist sects. Five of the members support the ruling Cambodian People's Party,

allowing the CPP to install its choice on the throne. That has royalists worried.

Chakrapong's proposal would instead bypass the Throne Council, with the electorate

choosing from a slate of up to six candidates. The prince suggested that candidates

would not be allowed to canvass for votes; instead voters would rely on posters to

make their choice.

Julio A. Jeldres, acting director of KID, told the Post he supported Chakrapong's

initiative as it was democratic and would avoid instability when King Sihanouk eventually

dies.

"I don't understand why Prime Minister Hun Sen doesn't realize this is an important

issue for the future of Cambodia," Jeldres said. "Every time he meets with

a foreign ambassador and donors, he has reiterated [the need for] stability, but

if the legislation is not passed by the National Assembly then a constitutional crisis

will engulf Cambodia upon the death of the current monarch."

The prince's initiative comes amid a growing debate on the succession issue. Opposition

parliamentarians met King Sihanouk last month after he expressed his concerns over

the lack of a law to govern the Throne Council.

The parliamentarians called for clarification of how the Throne Council would

work in the event of the King's death, and for the Queen to serve as interim head

of state while a successor was chosen.

The SRP's Son Chhay, who met the King, expressed his support at the KID forum for

Chakrapong's election proposal. He said he was concerned that the draft legislation

would not be heard due to political pressure. That follows Hun Sen's recent comment

that he was more interested in concentrating on next year's general election than

discussing the succession issue.

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