King Norodom Sihamoni has appealed for unity amid an ongoing political standoff between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the country’s main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The appeal coincided with the opening of a plenary session at parliament, which the opposition boycotted.
In a letter to the National Assembly, sent on October 7, King Sihamoni complemented the CPP for maintaining a strong economy and poverty reduction.
He added that he hoped to see an end to the current political tensions and an adherence to the ideals of pluralism and human rights.
Reading the letter in parliament, National Assembly President Heng Samrin quoted the king as saying, “I would like to appeal to all Cambodian citizens, both inside and outside the country, to adhere to the principle of solidarity to build on national safeguards and social progress.”
Sam Rainsy, CNRP president, told VOA earlier this month that he wanted to see Cambodia become a more liberal, pluralistic democracy.
“We are waiting for an act of good will from the CPP, such as the release of political prisoners, the dismissal of the cases [against members of the opposition], and an end to the violation of parliamentarian immunity,” he said.
“If they show good will, we will take our seats in the assembly … in order to reunite Cambodians and show mutual respect,” he added.
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said the CNRP must first take their seats in parliament before the king’s request could be granted.
However, he added that Rainsy, who is wanted to serve a two-year prison sentence for defamation, which caused him to enter self-imposed exile last year, would need to serve his sentence regardless of any easing of tensions between the two parties.
“The judiciary is independent in Cambodia. Why does the opposition always want to violate their independence?” he asked.