The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said yesterday it would hold regular public policy forums in an effort to reach out to voters and address criticisms that it is not serious about policymaking.
CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said the forums – scheduled to start on Wednesday – would include discussions on the judicial system, government decentralisation and the upcoming elections, and would be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the party headquarters in the capital.
Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the public would have the opportunity to ask questions during the forums.
“People need to be aware of the needed reforms, so we want to speak to the public and find solutions to the problems we’re encountering,” he said.
The move comes in the wake of criticism from the Cambodia-America Alliance (CAA) that party leader Sam Rainsy is focusing on “minuscule and juvenile” issues instead of genuine policy matters.
Rainsy regularly posts pictures of himself on social media – recently visiting vineyards in the French countryside or, to show his support for the Black Monday campaign, riding a bicycle through Paris.
“I see a little bit of negligence from Sam Rainsy, he’s not paying attention to the issues people are facing,” said CAA vice-president Veasna Roeun. “He should focus more on the social issues and injustices, because the ruling party isn’t addressing them.”
Asked whether he would participate in the public forums, Rainsy responded that he would do whatever his colleagues requested.
“I just follow them,” Rainsy said, adding that he had had a long conversation with CNRP deputy Kem Sokha on Sunday to discuss “this and that”.
Prominent political analyst Ou Virak, meanwhile, welcomed the CNRP’s decision but said he felt the move was too little, too late.
“They should have been talking about policy from the beginning,” Virak said. “They should have a vision – that’s why you start a party.”
Still, he added, it was positive that the party was making plans without Rainsy. “It doesn’t appear that Rainsy has any ideas or policies, so the CNRP needs to move forward,” he said.
The CAA’s Roeun said the opposition ought to invite members of the ruling party to the discussions.
“We think it’s great they are holding these forums,” he said. “It would be even better if they invited the ruling party to debate with them so they could go back to something that resembles a culture of dialogue.”