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King endorses draft law

King endorses draft law

King Norodom Sihanouk praised opposition lawmakers for their efforts to produce a

draft law to regulate the Throne Council, the body that will eventually choose his


Four Sam Rainsy Party legislators met the King on July 18 to discuss both the succession

law and border issues, said MP Son Chhay. The King leaves for a medical check-up

in Beijing in a few days.

"We got a green light from the King to push for approval of our draft law regulating

the Throne Council," said Chhay. "During that discussion, the King said

we had done a perfect job [on the draft], and said he was happy and praised our efforts."

Chhay said the SRP would make every effort to ensure the draft law would come before

the National Assembly before the body is dissolved prior to the July 2003 general


He said the King again confirmed he wanted legal preparations to be made as per the

Constitution, and said it was not the case that those who raised the issue were looking

for him to die. That has been a regular refrain of both Prime Minister Hun Sen and

Prince Norodom Ranariddh to previous attempts to highlight the lack of a law regulating

the Throne Council.

This statement by the King, said Chhay, meant politicians would no longer be able

to use that excuse to avoid debating the issue.

"I hope that this law will be accepted for examination by the National Assembly's

Legislative Commission as soon as possible in order to please our King," said

Chhay, adding that the King had given permission for him to discuss with the press

his support for the law.

The King had told him the Throne Council Law would provide the basis for the continuity

of the monarchy, which would guarantee the stability of the nation.

Chhay said he noted the King was in very good health. Although his health was not

as strong as a lion, it was as strong as an ox. Therefore he felt the King would

stay on as long as possible to provide shade for the nation.

Chhay said he would re-examine the SRP's draft law once again before sending it to

the legislative commission. He said the King had not given advice about any changes

as he was above politics, but Chhay indicated he would examine certain provisions.

He pointed out that approval by the Assembly requires a two-thirds majority vote.

That meant it was bigger than any single party, so consensus would be required. Secondly

he said the importance of the King's role meant the Throne Council would need to

agree about his successor to allow the next king to fulfill his duties for the benefit

of the nation.

Also the process should ensure that the candidate should be free from the taint of

politics, scandals and corruption.

"We can find a good candidate for the throne such as Prince Norodom Sihamoni,

as he has not been involved in any scandals," said Chhay.

That is in line with recent comments by two leading candidates for the position,

Prince Ranariddh and Prince Norodom Sirivudh, secretary-general of Funcinpec. Both

have said they do not want to become king, but Ranariddh did say that both would

support Sihamoni.

The fourth area involved the position of regent, which under the Constitution falls

to the Senate President, who is currently the CPP's Chea Sim.

Son Chhay said he would examine introducing a clause into the draft that would allow

Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk to become regent until the Throne Council selected

the new king.

"I would like to confirm that normally the president of the senate would be

regent, but we know that the Cambodian people and a group of politicians would like

to think that if there were an [inability to choose the next king], the Queen has

the ability to maintain national stability," said Chhay.

At a ceremony to remember those Funcinpec members who died fighting for the party,

Prince Norodom Ranariddh told the party faithful they should put their differences

behind them and strive for victory in next year's general election.

"I am here today to ask all colleagues, in front of the spirits of our patriots

and democrats, that we must swear from now on to give up all that which will cause

danger to the party," he said in his speech to several hundred supporters at

Wat Chambork Meas in Kandal on July 11.

Ranariddh also hit back at criticisms that he had buckled to a warning from Prime

Minister Hun Sen against conducting the ceremony on July 5, the anniversary of the

1997 coup. He said the number 11 was a fortuitous number, and the memorial service

represented all who had died fighting for the royalist cause over the past two decades.

"We have not betrayed the wisdom of the patriots who sacrificed their lives

for sovereignty and democracy," said Ranariddh of the estimated 4,000 dead.

"We should take July 11 as our anniversary to commemorate these patriots. It

is a lucky number, a number without problems, and number 11 was the number of our

party [on the election list] in 1993."

In the 1997 coup, military units loyal to the CPP routed those aligned with Funcinpec.

Around 100 royalists were killed, including Ho Sok, Funcinpec's outspoken secretary

of state at the Ministry of Interior, who was arrested then shot dead in his own


"If we want to be a worthy successor to our patriots, Funcinpec has to unite

internally," said Ranariddh, alluding to recent disputes.

One particularly public show of disunity was the battle to oust co-Minister of Interior

You Hokry, whom party members accused of nepotism and corruption.

Hokry finally announced in May that he would step down from his post once a successor

had been chosen. The party has selected as its first choice Khan Savoeun, deputy

commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Savoeun would need the approval of the National Assembly before he could take up

the position. Many believe that might prove difficult as the legislative body is

dominated by the CPP, with whom he is not popular. Two-thirds of the 122 members

need to approve his nomination.

However Heng Samrin, who is the CPP's first deputy-president of the National Assembly,

told reporters on July 16 his party had no gripe with anyone from Funcinpec. He said

the vote would depend on the will of individual parliamentarians.

"I cannot say whether my party will support Savoeun's nomination," said

Samrin. "It depends on the vote, so we will have to wait for the result."

And Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said the two parties would need to meet first before

the nomination could be placed on the agenda. "I am not opposed [to Savoeun],

but I don't know about the others," said Yeap. "The two parties need to

meet to discuss this in advance."

The leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy, said his MPs would support Savoeun, but

felt the CPP would not.

"The CPP wants only those people who work to serve its interests," he said.

Rainsy added that many of the royalist party's lawmakers were able politicians, but

he criticized Ranariddh for preventing them from speaking out on issues.

Funcinpec's internal problems stem partly from the perception among its supporters

that the balance of power in the coalition government is unfairly tilted towards

the CPP. Ranariddh warned that maintaining support in Funcinpec's traditional bases

was vital for success.

"Will we consider the interests of personalities, or those of individual groups?"

he asked. "To do so would betray the oaths of allegiance given by the spirits

of our patriots and democrats. If we want to lead but cannot find unity, then will

our supporters believe in us, and will they vote for us?"


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