Reversing a statement he made on Sunday, CPP lawmaker and spokesman Sok Eysan said a tentatively scheduled meeting between party leaders, including Interior Minister and senior CPP official Sar Kheng and CNRP acting president Kem Sokha, set for either yesterday or today had been cancelled because of work commitments.
“Because the leaders of Cambodian People’s Party are engaged in their duties to serve the nation and the people, they do not have a plan to meet with leaders of the [CNRP] in the National Assembly,” Eysan said, refusing to reveal a timeframe for negotiations.
“The culture of dialogue is still open as before, but because their work schedules are very busy, the [CPP leaders] do not plan to meet at this time.”
Responding, CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said the party agreed talks could wait for an “appropriate time”.
Sokha last week pledged to sit down and negotiate with the CPP to defuse tensions, with party president Sam Rainsy currently in self-imposed exile in France to avoid going to prison.
Rainsy, stripped of his lawmaker status on November 16, faces a two-year sentence over a 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
The case, long dormant and thought expunged, emerged on November 13 as political tensions swelled following the ousting of Sokha as the National Assembly’s first vice president and the gang-bashing of two opposition MPs outside parliament after a pro-CPP rally, a demonstration foreshowed by Prime Minister Hun Sen the night before.
Yesterday morning, the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers boycotted a plenary session of parliament, citing fears for their safety.
Ponharith said the party wanted more arrests for the assault of Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea.
To date, only three men, all soldiers, have been charged. Several can be seen in footage of the attack widely circulated on social media.
He also called for Sokha to be reinstated as assembly vice president and for the case against Rainsy to be dropped.
Those calls were echoed yesterday by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), which became the latest group to condemn the government over recent events, following a resolution by the European Parliament last week.
“These events are not isolated incidents, but appear instead to be part of a broader effort by the ruling party to undermine and dismantle the opposition,” said APHR chairperson and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago, also citing verbal attacks and threats against the CNRP by Hun Sen, and the imprisonment of Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour and opposition activists.
“These politically motivated decisions confirm the extent to which the legislative and judicial branches in Cambodia are regularly used as tools of the Prime Minister and his cohorts to threaten and silence opposition voices.”
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton