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Cambodian opposition asks king to delay parliament

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodian opposition supporters gathered at the royal palace Saturday and delivered a petition to the king calling on him to postpone the opening of parliament until the country’s political deadlock is resolved.

Hundreds of riot police guarded the palace, outnumbering supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. The peaceful gathering ended after four representatives were allowed past a barricade to hand palace aides the petition. About 260,000 supporters signed the petition, said Mu Sochua, an opposition leader.

The opposition says it will boycott parliament’s opening session Monday unless the government agrees to an independent probe of the July 28 election results. The CNRP says it was cheated out of a victory because of electoral fraud.

The government has rejected the demand of an independent probe, and Prime Minister Hun Sen says he will continue his 28 years in power.

Official results gave Hun Sen’s party 68 seats, compared to 55 for the opposition.

“We hope the king will read the documents from the people and agree to delay or postpone the meeting at the National Assembly,” said Norn Ly, 25, one of the petitioners.

King Norodom Sihamoni did not immediately reply to the petition, but he has already asked the opposition to take its seats at the National Assembly’s scheduled opening, pointing to a constitutional stipulation that the assembly must be convened within 60 days of the election.

The petition drive came a day after opposition leader Sam Rainsy also urged the king to postpone parliament.

In a separate incident Friday night, more than 100 military police pressured Prince Sisowath Thomico, a member of both the royal family and the opposition party, to leave a park in Phnom Penh, the capital, where he had launched a hunger strike earlier that day, according to the prince and human rights activists.

The prince said that he agreed to abandon his hunger strike because he didn’t want trouble and that he would find other ways to show support for the opposition.

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