The Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party have formed working groups to set the agenda for high-level talks between their respective leaders, though the date for any such meeting is still up in the air, representatives of both parties said yesterday.
Refuting earlier government claims that negotiations to end Cambodia’s political stalemate had been scheduled for January 2, Interior Minister Sar Kheng and CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said yesterday that each party had assigned three delegates to work together on an agenda before Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy sit down for talks.
Neither offered a specific date for the negotiations, but both said they would start soon.
Kheng specifically dismissed statements made by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith saying talks would start tomorrow, saying he didn’t know where Kanharith had sourced his information.
“In fact, there will be a meeting, but [we] have not set a date yet – there will be a meeting soon,” Kheng said, adding that the working groups of both parties were now in contact with each other.
“There will be [negotiations]; we cannot avoid that, because we are all Khmers, and we must have talks,” he continued.
The CNRP’s Sokha said yesterday the working groups were necessary in order to establish an agreed-upon agenda so the top-level negotiations could progress smoothly.
“As the National Rescue Party, the topic which we will take into debate is a new election,” Sokha said, echoing opposition demands for Hun Sen to step down and call a new vote. “We generally have the real will to solve the deadlock problem, but the topic that must be solved has to do with the people’s will, which is the request for a new election.”
Sokha also noted that, despite the talks, the ongoing demonstrations in Freedom Park would continue until a resolution was reached.
Independent political analyst Chea Vannath yesterday urged both sides to keep the people’s best interests in mind, and said that since the playing field between the parties had been levelled by the ongoing mass protests, the negotiations could yield promising results.
Going on to say that each party represented roughly half the population, Vannath argued that it would be best for ordinary Cambodians if the two could work in tandem.
“King Father [Norodom Sihanouk] told his children again and again that children have to unite,” she said. “As a formula, 50 plus 50 equals 100. That means that if both parties work together to serve people, our country can solve big problems, but if 50 is working against 50, we only remain at zero, and our country cannot grow.”