PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni has called on Cambodians to vote in the forthcoming local elections without fear of political threats.
King Sihamoni made the statement in a letter posted to the National Election Committee website on Monday.
The letter said that the elections would be a chance for Cambodians to express their political views in private without fear of a backlash.
“The election on June 4 is confidential and complies with democracy, freedom and pluralism, therefore, people should not be worried about pressure, threats or intimidation of any person or any political party,” the letter reads.
Oum Daravuth, spokesman for the Royal Palace, could not be reached.
Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, said the letter was part of a longstanding tradition in which the king encouraged people to embrace democracy ahead of an election. “Cambodian society really needs warmth from the king,” he said.
Meas Ny, a political analyst, said the statement would act as a counterweight to the ongoing political tensions between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“The king released this important message as a wake up call to people,” Ny said.
King Sihamoni, who holds a ceremonial position in which he officially signs laws into force, has been in China since early March for medical treatment. Speculation arose as he departed just as a controversial law governing political parties was amended in what was viewed as the latest attack on the opposition party.
Sam Rainsy, the former opposition president, praised the king for leaving the country as the amendments were passed, forcing Senate President Say Chhum to sign off on the changes in his absence, in what some viewed as a rare moment of protest on the part of the King.