King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk departed Cambodia on February 26 to undergo medical checks and treatment in Beijing, China, as they do every six months.

The King issued a February 24 statement to the public, announcing his departure.

“In my absence, Senate president Say Chhum will assume the duties of Acting Head of State,” he said. 

Meas Nee, a social development researcher, said he would have preferred that the King remain in the country so he could serve as a guarantor and a symbol of justice and national unification, should any issues emerges from the Senate election.

“Under the Constitution, the King is a symbol of unity and of the eternity of the nation. He also serves as an arbitrator of political parties, during the electoral process,” he added. 

He acknowledged, however, that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) would sweep to victory and bring the situation under control. 

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, noted that the King and the Queen Mother travel to the Chinese capital around this time every year, although this year’s trip coincided with the election of the fifth legislature Senate.

Alluding to a suggestion by some political observers that the monarch remain in the country amid the Senate election, Phea said: “This mandate’s election presented no challenges, given the calm political situation. The intervention of the King to resolve a political crisis between contesting parties was therefore not required.

“From the registration process to the ballot count, we haven’t identified any irregularities. We don’t see any sign of a political deadlock, or protests over the election results. Therefore, the King’s trip is not problematic at all,” he added.

He regarded any commentary linking the King’s trip to political events like the Senate election as unfounded criticism.

He suggested that critics re-consider their opinions, saying that they should assess the country’s situation. There is no threat of political chaos, and no need to provoke controversy.