Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lonely CPP ready for Assembly

Lonely CPP ready for Assembly

Lonely CPP ready for Assembly

ALTHOUGH the first meeting of the National Assembly is scheduled for September 27,

only the Cambodian People's Party has committed to attend the opening. Neither King

Norodom Sihanouk nor the Alliance of Democrats, headed by Funcinpec president Prince

Norodom Ranariddh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, have agreed to attend the meeting,

potentially prolonging the political stalemate.

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen has pushed for a royal presence at the ceremony,

King Norodom Sihanouk continued to resist calls to convene the assembly by the constitutional

deadline on September 27.

The King also released a statement on September 22 stating that Hun Sen had retracted

comments made by the PM during a meeting earlier in September. Hun Sen had told the

King that the nation's armed forces and national police wished him to open the National

Assembly, a statement the King had interpreted as threatening.

"Samdech Hun Sen, the leader of the government, has informed me that there is

no threat from the RCAF, the national police and people supporting the CPP,"

he wrote. "I would like to announce that the threat is null and void."

However, Hun Sen reiterated on September 23 his refusal to hold negotiations with

the Alliance of Democrats before convening the next National Assembly. He said any

negotiations would have to follow the meeting of the new representative body.

Hun Sen has warned political parties elected in the July polls that they will lose

seats in the new National Assembly if they boycott the first meeting.

"I think that those political parties will not be stupid to give up their seats

in the National Assembly," Hun Sen told reporters on September 21. "The

seats would be allocated among the political parties attending the National Assembly

and then the CPP will meet the two-thirds required by the law to form a self-government."

He issued the warning after Say Bory, a member of the Constitutional Council, wrote

to King Norodom Sihanouk on September 18 to explain that 120 members of parliament

were not required for a new National Assembly to convene. It also stated that the

King can appoint a representative to attend in his place.

"According to the law, there is no limit to the number of parliamentarians who

must attend the first meeting of the National Assembly," he stated. "However,

once the King departs from the opening of the National Assembly, there must be 87

MPs to continue the proceedings" and approve assembly officers.

Although Article 76 of the Constitution requires that "the assembly consist

of at least 120 members", it was not interpreted by the Constitutional Council

to mean 120 members are required to open the assembly, as the Alliance of Democrats

has claimed.

Following the advice of the council, the King appointed Chea Sim, chairman of the

ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and president of the Senate, on September 19

to open the first meeting of newly elected National Assembly.

However, Ranariddh and Rainsy told reporters on September 22 that they would only

attend the assembly if the King agreed to hold the ceremony in the Royal Palace and

at least 120 MPs attended.

Rainsy also demanded that the CPP suspend its two seats in Svay Rieng and Kampong

Thom and conduct a recount after September 27.

"If the CPP accepts our final concession, then the three political parties will

attend the inauguration," said Rainsy. "We hope that the CPP will accept

our request. It should accept the offer because we make a lot of concessions. The

CPP could not blame us [for the stalemate] if it maintains its stubborn position."

He affirmed that the SRP is considering boycotting the inauguration of the third

National Assembly, but rejected Hun Sen's claim that it would forfeit the party's

24 seats.

Rainsy wrote to the King on September 21 to suggest the King mediate a meeting by

all three elected parties to break the political impasse. Prince Ranariddh also added

that a coalition government between the three political parties could form despite

Hun Sen's demand that only one party join the government.

Two student associations also issued a joint statement condemning the activities

of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) which threatened King Sihanouk.

The Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals and the Students' Movement for Democracy

wrote that according to the constitution the "King must not be violated by anyone".

"The acts of the ruling party or Hun Sen and Constitutional Council are threatening

the King and breaching the Constitution," the organizations wrote. "We

condemn someone who threatens the King."

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