Sam Rainsy took to Facebook yesterday to praise King Norodom Sihamoni for being absent for the signing of amendments to the Law on Political Parties earlier this month, which he argued showed the King’s reluctance to rubber-stamp the controversial legislation.
In his post, the former opposition leader said the King’s absence from the country was to avoid passing legislation that could potentially be used by the ruling party to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The widely decried amendments enable the dissolution of parties whose leaders possess criminal convictions, a move widely believed aimed squarely at the CNRP.
After being passed by the National Assembly and Senate, the legislation was signed by Senate President and acting head of state Say Chhum on March 7, as the King – who usually signs laws into force – had departed for China for a medical checkup on March 3.
“King Norodom Sihamoni has recently left Cambodia for China in order to avoid signing off the undemocratic amendment to the law on political parties which practically allows the CPP to dissolve the CNRP any time,” Rainsy said in the post.
He equated this to King Norodom Sihanouk’s leaving for China in 2004 to avoid signing off on constitutional amendments that allowed members of the National Assembly to elect both the assembly president and the prime minister at the same time.
Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol yesterday reiterated that the King was in China for his regular, biannual medical checkup and said people were free to make their own interpretations of his absence.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, a CNRP official and member of the royal family, said he did not want to comment on Rainsy’s opinion, calling it a personal view. However, he did point out that while the King did not sign the Law on Political Parties, he did sign an edict bestowing a prestigious honourific on the late deputy prime minister Sok An, despite still being abroad.
Sok An, head of the Council of Ministers, was given the prestigious title “Samdech Vibol Panha” on March 13.
“He was away for both. The King signed the royal decree for Sok An even though he was absent. So, the King could have signed the party law as well,” Thomico said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANANTH BALIGA