Phnom Penh — The opening of Cambodia’s parliament has been boycotted by the opposition party, say media reports, as the nation is still in the grip of a political crisis following the disputed July elections that has resulted in protests and violence in recent weeks.
King Norodom Sihamoni opened the session and urged the country to “stand united”.
Parliament was surrounded by heavy security in the first session since the July elections.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had vowed to boycott the opening session if their demands for an independent investigation into the election was not met, and no opposition MPs were present at the meeting.
Official election results gave Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) 68 seats, and the CNRP 55. The opposition rejects the results, citing widespread voting irregularities.
The opposition held three days of demonstrations earlier this month, which resulted in a protester being shot and killed when police clashed with a stone-throwing crowd.
Security has been tight around government building in recent days, with anti-riot police blocking roads near parliament in the capital.
Hun Sen has agreed to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, and has met with opposition leader Sam Rainsy twice for talks, but has thus far rejected the demand for an independent probe into the election.
The Prime Minister is expected to be sworn in Tuesday for another five-year term.
The opposition has not changed its demands, and party spokesman Yim Sovann told AFP that it was “undemocratic” for the legislature to have opened with only ruling party members in attendance.
In his speech to parliament, the King told the lawmakers, “The Cambodian nation must stand united and show the highest national solidarity on the basis of the implementation of the principles of democracy and rule of law”.
Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected, and has ruled Cambodia for almost three decades. He is 61 but has vowed to rule until he is 74.
Cambodia has experienced economic growth in recent years, but is still one of the world’s poorest countries, and the government is regularly accused of human rights violations and suppressing political dissent. Image/AFP