The new Secretary General of the Constituent Assembly, Lieutenant General Toh Lah,
recently spoke with the Post about the Constituent Assembly and the what it has accomplished
to date. In his description, he made a distinction between the work of the Constituent
Assembly as a Constituent Assembly and its work as the newly elected representative
body of the people of Cambodia. In the latter capacity it has empowered a Chief of
State for the interim period and approved a provisional government. Thus, though
the elected representatives of Cambodia have met four times, they have met to work
as a Constituent Assembly only once.
There have been those recently who have argued, especially from abroad, that the
Constituent Assembly has exceeded the mandate envisaged for it in the Paris Peace
Accords. Secretary General Tol Lah's two-way characterization of the role and work
of the elected representatives of the Cambodian people seems to be an answer to this
The Inaugural Session of the Constituent Assembly:
June 14 1993
The inaugural session was a ceremonial meeting but it had an important outcome. Tol
Lah says "We do not consider this a session of the Constituent Assembly, it
was instead a meeting of the newly elected representatives of the people of Cambodia."
A motion was made by Prince Norodom Ranariddh to render null and void the "unconstitutional
coup d'état in 1970" which ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk and installed
the Republican Regime of Lon Nol. The members of the Constituent Assembly approved
the motion unanimously.
As General Tol Lah describes it, the vote of the elected members of the Constituent
Assembly had the consequence of making null and void the removal of Sihanouk as Chief
of State in 1970, thus making uninterrupted his status as Cambodia's Chief of State
since "before 1970." Tol Lah said that the elected representatives had
the full power in what he calls a "special session to decide this issue."
First Session of the Constituent Assembly:
June 30, 1993
On June 30, the Constituent Assembly met for the first time as a Constituent Assembly.
There were six items on the agenda. First, the members of the Constituent Assembly
voted to elect Son Sann as the President of the Assembly. Second, the First and Second
Vice Presidents of the Constituent Assembly were elected. Third, the Constituent
Assembly adopted the set of rules and regulations that were submitted by the rules
committee. These were accepted unanimously. They will regulate the internal relations
and activity of the Assembly. They included a voting rule. "Important"
questions before the assembly can only be approved by a two-thirds majority.
Fourth, the Bureau of the President of the Constituent Assembly was elected. It included
two "questers," one from CPP and the other from FUNCINPEC. Fifth, five
secretaries were elected, all of them members of the Assembly. Two were from FUNCINPEC,
two were from CPP and one was from BLDP, as Tol Lah put it, "in proportion with
the configuration of the Assembly."
Sixth, the Constituent Assembly voted to establish two permanent committees. One
is chaged with drafting a constitution, and the other will draft the rules and regulations
for the National Assembly. As dictated by the Paris Peace Accords the Constituent
Assembly will become the National Assembly when the new constitution is approved
and the permanent government installed. Finally, a national anthem and a flag were
approved. With minor changes the anthem predates the Lon Nol regime, and the national
flag is that of Cambodia under Prince Sihanouk in the 1960's.
Special Meeting of the Elected Representatives of Cambodia:
July 1, 1993
This is the second session of the elected representatives of Cambodia. They voted
to accept the new government, the Provisional National Government of Cambodia, and
the slate of nominated Ministers, Vice-Ministers and Senior Ministers. Further, they
accepted the "Program of action of the Provisional National Government for the
coming three months." This document laid out the priorities for the government
in the transitional period. It was produced by a meeting of all the Ministers involved
and was chaired by Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The Swearing in of the New Government:
July 2, 1993
The text used in the swearing in ceremony came from Prince Ranariddh. The committee
whose job it was to write the text, produced a much shorter one. But, Tol Lah says,
when they read the text that Ranariddh provided, they decided unanimously to accept
The swearing in ceremony was led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who significantly swore
with the elected representatives of the Cambodian people and the leading members
of the Provisional National Government of Cambodia. The ceremony was accomplished
in front of the throne and in front of the King of the Monks.