Cambodian prince on hunger strike over disputed polls

Cambodian prince on hunger strike over disputed polls
Prince Sisowath Thomico (inset) goes on a hunger strike as Cambodians protesters hold a demonstration on September 19, 2013 near the royal place requesting King Norodom Sihamoni to delay the first parliament meeting because of the disputed election result.

PHNOM PENH - A Cambodian prince - the cousin of King Norodom Sihamoni - went on hunger strike Friday in protest at Prime Minister Hun Sen's disputed election victory, demanding "justice for voters".

Prince Sisowath Thomico, who is a senior member of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), said: "I am on hunger strike until there is a solution to render justice to the people, who are the voters."

Talking to reporters as he began the protest at a pagoda in the capital Phnom Penh, he accused the prime minister's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of "staging a cold coup" and seeking to create a conflict between the people and the king.

According to official results of the July election, the CPP won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP.

The opposition has rejected the tally, alleging widespread vote rigging, and has warned it will boycott the opening of parliament on Monday unless the irregularities are addressed.

"We will not attend the meeting on September 23," opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a news conference.

"If the meeting on the 23rd goes ahead and without the CNRP, it will totally violate the constitution."

He called for more talks with the CPP to find a way to "expose the truth about who is the real winner of this election".

Earlier this week the king wrote to opposition lawmakers appealing to them to drop the planned boycott of parliament for the sake of "national unity".

Hun Sen, who has ruled for 28 years, has held several meetings with Rainsy in the past week to discuss the political stalemate.

The two sides remain at odds over the opposition's demand for the creation of an independent "truth committee" to investigate the polls.

Violent clashes erupted in Phnom Penh Sunday on the fringes of a mass demonstration that drew an estimated 20,000 opposition supporters demanding a probe.

The opposition blamed the authorities for the death of a protester who, according to witnesses, was shot in the head.

The opposition said Friday it might hold more protests if the political crisis is not resolved.

Hun Sen, 61, has vowed to rule until he is 74. His government is regularly accused of ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.

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