Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday used the occasion of the UN’s 13th International Peace Day to once again extol the virtues of the “culture of dialogue” his ruling Cambodian People’s Party ostensibly enjoys with the opposition, along with the power of “forgiveness”, though made no mention of the 14 political activists currently jailed.
Stating that the government has, for its part, adhered to the rapprochement, the prime minister called on “all Cambodians . . . to perfectly adhere to, preserve, publicise and strengthen the culture of dialogue and to widely extend the foundations of peace, the promotion of non-violent culture, patience, understanding, forgiveness and love”.
Yim Sovann, Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman, while endorsing the culture of dialogue, noted that politicians should be able to freely express ideas, and questioned the independence of the judiciary.
“If peace is not based on a foundation of justice, it is not peace,” Sovann said.
The jailing of opposition activists in July and August as well as that of CNRP Senator Hong Sok Hour is “exactly” why Sovann spoke of justice, he said, adding that “if [the government] wants to arrest people, they can”.
Sovann further remarked that in “the fight against impunity, there is no action taken by the Ministry of Interior”.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with rights group Licadho, while expressing support for the idea of the “dialogue”, said it “cannot be achieved unless we have honesty, which leads to transparency”.
In May, Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy jointly agreed to renew the faltering “culture of dialogue”, which was intended to maintain civil relations between both parties and curtail inflammatory language in political speeches.
Their joint statement called on parties to eliminate perceptions of revenge in the event of political change, referencing the Khmer proverb: “When the water rises, the fish eat the ants; when the water recedes, the ants eat the fish”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALESSANDRO MARAZZI SASSOON