Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Updates: King nominates senators, again transfers authority to sign in controversial legal changes before leaving country

Updates: King nominates senators, again transfers authority to sign in controversial legal changes before leaving country

King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath Sihanouk, leaving today for China, are seen off by high ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath Sihanouk, leaving today for China, are seen off by high ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen. Pha Lina

Updates: King nominates senators, again transfers authority to sign in controversial legal changes before leaving country

King Norodom Sihamoni’s Senate nominations were announced Thursday morning, just as he left the country for Beijing after transferring his authority to sign new controversial legal amendments to acting head of state and CPP Senate President Say Chhum.

The official reason given for the King and Queen Mother Monineath Sihanouk’s departure was a routine medical check-up, although Sihamoni has recently made a habit of leaving the country when contentious laws are due to be signed into effect.

“Our King leaves for China as scheduled by the Chinese medical doctor ... As usual, no problem with his health. He could be there for a month,” said Oum Daravuth, a member of Royal Palace cabinet. Daravuth predicted Sihamoni would return by Khmer New Year.

The King’s departure comes in the wake of the Senate’s approval of a new lèse majesté law banning insults to the monarch, as well as a series of constitutional amendments. Rights groups, including the United Nations, have warned that the laws threaten freedom of speech, political participation and the press.

Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang said Sihamoni transferred his authority as head of state to Chhum upon departure.

The laws will be reviewed by the Constitutional Council to ensure they are in “accordance” with the charter, before being given to Chhum to sign.

While Bun Neang denied that the King left the country to avoid approving the controversial legislation, political analyst Lao Mong Hay thought otherwise.

Mong Hay said that the King would not want to sign laws that are “blatantly unconstitutional and therefore unjust”.

“Such laws hurt his conscience – and indeed that of any reasonable person,” Mong Hay said.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a cousin of King Sihamoni and a former opposition member, said neither Sihamoni nor the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk ever took action against those who insulted them.
“I do not think King Sihamoni will ever use that law,” Thomico said.

Instead, he predicted “that law will be used … like many other laws to silence the opposition and civil society”.

Another member of the royal family who requested anonymity also doubted the laws were “the will of the King himself”.

Just as his father believed in freedom of expression, they said in a message, “King Sihamoni defends these values of free expression as he was raised in an intellectual environment that was close to the Western spirit in which points of view clash, where discussion and compromise exist.”

“I doubt that the King personally wants to shut the mouth of his whole population and the world at large through lese majeste laws.”

Daravuth declined to comment on whether Sihamoni supported the lèse majesté law, but ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan said the party had acted on its own in drafting the measure.

Eysan said Prime Minister Hun Sen “initiated” the law as a “royalist, king lover [and] king defender”.

In 2005, Hun Sen suggested dissolving the monarchy entirely when King Sihamoni balked at signing a controversial border treaty with Vietnam.

In a royal decree signed February 19 and made public yesterday, the King nominated his half-sister and former Funcinpec President Norodom Arun Rasmey to the Senate, along with Oum Somanin.

The Senate election will be held on Sunday, with local commune officials and National Assembly representatives voting on 58 of the 62 seats. Of the remaining four, the King nominates two while the National Assembly exclusively selects two more. After the dissolution of the only viable opposition party and the redistribution of its elected positions, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has more than enough representatives to win all 60 elected seats.

Additional reporting by Kong Meta and Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon


  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon

  • Migrant workers set to return from Malaysia

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirmed on Thursday that 158 Cambodian students and migrant workers will fly home from Malaysia on Friday morning. This is the second flight to bring Cambodians home from Malaysia. A ministry notice said Malaysia Airlines Flight MH754 will