>Monarchy remains politically divisive issue for election


By Neth Pheaktra
The Mekong Times

In what many saw as an assault on the Royalist support base ahead of election campaigning, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday appealed for King Sihamoni (pictured) to ban political parties from using the monarchy in campaigning. The request comes after a National Election Committee (NEC) prohibition on campaign references to the retired monarch Norodom Sihanouk, including photos, words and messages.

“I would like to appeal to the King to … stop political parties from using the monarchy as their own possession,” the premier said yesterday during a Siem Reap address. The premier said that problems begin “when royalist parties cannot win the common people’s children … They are always using the former King.”
“We want to protect monarchy but they destroy it,” he added.
The premier’s remarks were supported by Prince Sisowath Thomico, a member of the Cambodian royal family. “[I]f we cite the monarchy during campaigning, some Cambodian groups will no longer support the monarchy,” he said. “To avoid rejection and to show Cambodian people are unified and have a consensus on the monarchy, we mustn’t talk about the monarchy when campaigning.”
Muth Chantha, a spokesman for the royalist Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), totally rejected Hun Sen’s statement. He said he opposed the NEC’s ban because “monarchism belongs to all Cambodian people.”

“We are the NRP, the royalist party, and we have a bigger obligation than the CPP in protecting monarchism, because we do not want the Kingdom of Cambodia to become a second Nepal,” he said. “We intend to maintain constitutional monarchism.” Keo Puthreasmy, president of the pro-royalist Funcinpec, said that while “Funcinpec adheres to the politics of monarchism … when conducting field visits, we do not use the name of the King to campaign.”

“We just remind [people of] the history of forming Funcinpec. Funcinpec also adheres to policies based on Sihanoukist policies and Sihanoukist leadership, like the policies of various countries adhere in the rest of the world,” he said. “It does not mean that the ex-King [Norodom Sihanouk] is involved in politics in Funcinpec.” Thun Saray, director of local human rights group Adhoc, said political parties often twist monarchism to fit their own political ends. “What the civil society wants is a free and fair election,” he added.
Tep Nytha, NEC secretary general, warned that the NEC would take legal action if any party violates election rules.

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