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
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?"