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Monks urge Cambodia's king to postpone parliament

Thursday - 9/19/2013, 1:10pm  ET

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- A group of about 200 Buddhist monks on Thursday joined the contentious debate over Cambodia's recent election, calling on the king to postpone the opening of parliament.

The monks prayed for peace after being stopped at a police roadblock as they marched to the palace of King Norodom Sihamoni in Phnom Penh. They chanted and threw showers of lotus petals in the air.

Cambodia remains in a political standoff after the July 28 election, which was officially won by the ruling Cambodian People's Party. The results have been challenged by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which says it was cheated because of electoral fraud.

The monks said the constitutional monarch should not convene the National Assembly until the differences between the parties are resolved.

The monks' position is similar to that of the opposition, which says it will boycott the opening of the assembly unless an independent commission is established to investigate election irregularities.

Several monks, including the gathering's organizer, But Buntenh, insisted they were not supporting the opposition but rather asking for justice. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has repeatedly said the demand for a probe is in the interests of justice for Cambodia's people.

After talks on Tuesday that included Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for 28 years, the two parties said they have agreed on implementing some political reforms. However, the ruling party insists that there can be no independent probe of election fraud.

King Norodom Sihamoni asked opposition lawmakers on Wednesday to take their seats when the assembly is scheduled to open on Sept. 23, pointing to the constitutional stipulation that the assembly must be convened within 60 days of the polls.

But Buntenh said he was aware of the king's stance, but "We would like our king to consider again."

"We hope our king will give us justice," he said.

The monks' peaceful intervention was in defiance of a ban imposed by senior Buddhist authorities on monks participating in demonstrations or involving themselves in politics, and may have violated official limits on demonstrations, though no arrests were made.

Their action followed a three-day opposition demonstration earlier this week against the ruling party's victory. One man was fatally shot and at least 10 others were injured in clashes with police on Sunday.

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