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King To Open National Assembly Session Next Week

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, second from left, accompanied by his Queen Mother Monineath, right, greets Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, upon arrival from Beijing at Phnom Penh, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - King Norodom Sihamoni has denied an opposition request to postpone the opening National Assembly session following July’s election.

The session, scheduled for Sept. 23, is meant to begin the formation of a new government, but the opposition, which says it lost the election due to irregularities and fraud, has threatened to boycott the meeting.

In a letter to the king, 55 newly elected lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had requested a delay in the opening of the session, as they negotiate with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party over election reforms.

Yim Sovann, a Rescue Party spokesman, said the party remains committed to boycotting the session if no agreement is reached with the CPP.

“We cannot betray our conscience over the fact that we have not completely solved the problem, nor betray the people’s will by attending the opening,” he said. “Therefore, as a representative of the people, I have to respect their will.”

Opposition leaders say as many as 1.2 million voters were unable to cast ballots in the July 28 election, either through a flawed registration system or fraud on Election Day.

The Rescue Party has rejected the official results of the election, which handed the CPP a 68-to-55 win of National Assembly seats. The Rescue Party is calling for an independent investigation into election fraud and a reform of the electoral system.

The CPP, meanwhile, says it will seek ways to form a new government without the opposition if the Rescue Party refuses to attend the opening session of parliament.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the opposition’s calls for “justice” as “just an excuse not to abide by the rule of law and the constitution, as well as not respecting the king.”

“This is simply their party’s personal issue,” he said.

However, Hang Puthea, who heads the election-monitoring group Nicfec, said both parties have not found common ground, so the National Assembly session should be delayed. “The problems are not yet resolved,” he said.