Cambodian king urged to delay parliament in poll dispute
Reuters in Phnom Penh
Cambodian opposition politicians and Buddhist monks urged King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday to delay a new session of parliament after a disputed election win by long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) say Hun Sen cheated his way to a narrow victory in the July vote.
They say they will refuse to attend parliament, due to convene on Monday by royal order, until an independent inquiry is held.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said the king should delay parliament until further talks were held to end the political stalemate with Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has rejected an inquiry. "The constitution states that the king is the symbol of national unity," Sam Rainsy said. "Now where is the national unity?"
About 100 Buddhist monks also meditated this week near the Royal Palace to encourage King Sihamoni to reconsider.
Also protesting was Prince Sisowath Thomico, the king's cousin and a senior CNRP member, who went on hunger strike yesterday in an attempt to break the political deadlock. But the king, responding to a letter from CNRP lawmakers asking for the delay, replied that he would still preside over the opening session as constitutionally required within 60 days of the July 28 election.
The CPP has vowed to attend parliament alone, with Hun Sen earlier threatening to redistribute the opposition's seats to his party in the event of a no-show. Social analyst Chea Vannath said the opposition's call to the king to delay the opening of parliament was tantamount to defiance of the revered institution.
She said the crisis was a big test for the monarchy. "It is the highest institution that can't be challenged," she said. "But now there are people challenging it."
The CNRP says it was cheated out of 2.3 million votes that would have handed it victory.