PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s king and 68 ruling party members went forward with an opening parliamentary session on Monday, but the National Assembly session was boycotted by 55 opposition lawmakers elect.
The session follows July elections that the opposition says were tainted with irregularities and fraud that should be credibly investigated. Lawmakers elect from the Cambodia National Rescue Party had said they would not attend the meeting before such an investigation took place, claiming election irregularities cost 1.2 million people their votes and cost the opposition a win.
Meetings were held under tight security at the Royal Palace and the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh, where hundreds of riot police and military police stood guard, underscoring a tense post-election environment in the city.
Ngoun Nhel, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the session, presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni and attended by foreign dignitaries, signaled a “victory” for the CPP.
However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer that the opening session was an “abuse” of Cambodia’s institutions. The session was “unilateral” and did not represent the will of the people, he said, warning that Cambodia was turning into a “communist country.”
Foreign diplomats from the United States and the European Union also attended the meeting, at the invitation of the king, but US Ambassador William Todd told VOA Khmer this did not mean the US endorsed the election.
“America still believes that the election results still have errors and irregularities that need to be looked into,” Todd told reporters at the meeting. “We also believe that to have a National Assembly that functions you need two parties.”