More than 50 members of Cambodia’s beleaguered opposition party are asking King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene in the country’s increasingly tense political arena, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.
In an April 27 letter, 53 Cambodian National Rescue Party members told the king that the arrests of lawmakers, environmentalists and political pressure put on nongovernmental organizations is hamstringing the political process.
“The political tension, if allowed to continue without a timely solution, will lead Cambodia to go backward, just like in the past, where top state institutions like the national assembly, courts and other institutions lost their independence,” the lawmakers wrote.
The Cambodian government has arrested more than a dozen opposition lawmakers including Senator Hong Sok Hour, CNRP media director Meach Sovannara and Un Sam An, an opposition member of parliament.
CNRP chief Sam Rainsy went into self-imposed exile following his removal from parliament on Nov. 16 by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) because of a warrant issued for his arrest in a seven-year-old defamation case.
The CNRP lawmakers told the king that recent political arrests “can hamper to democratic process, human rights, rule of law which is guaranteed by the constitution.”
The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party Sok Ey San accused the rival CNRP of exaggerating.
“People are happy across the country,” he said. “They intend to scare people, however, the people are aware about it,” he said.
Sok Ey San also accused the CNRP of misleading the king.
“They are lying to the King,” he said. “They don’t speak the truth about our society.”
It is exceptionally rare for the king to intervene in political matters and it would be out of character for Norodom Sihamoni who The Phnom Penh Post labeled “the quiet king.”
Norodom Sihamoni did, however, pardon Sam Rainsy in 2012. On November 13, 2015, an arrest warrant was issued for him over a 2008 defamation case and he was removed from offices and stripped of his legislative immunity. He has been staying in France or traveling since then.
Reported by Leng Neang for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.