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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Interior minister calls for calm, negotiations

Interior Minister Sar Kheng (left) and acting CNRP leader Kem Sokha shake hands at a political meeting at the National Assembly last year.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng (left) and acting CNRP leader Kem Sokha shake hands at a political meeting at the National Assembly last year. Heng Chivoan

Interior minister calls for calm, negotiations

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Wednesday delivered an appeal for calm and negotiations, declaring political competition is “not the enemy”.

Seen by many as a moderate voice within the Cambodian People’s Party, Kheng said there needed to be acceptance of the fact that politics are inherently competitive.

“This is competition, and we need to understand this issue and not go beyond that,” he said. “When we go beyond it, there will a break in the nation and it will not become democracy, but anarchy. The competition is to serve people, and it is not the enemy.”

The remarks follow months of political turbulence, with the ruling CPP accused of using the courts to harass the Cambodia National Rescue Party with questionable legal cases.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in particular, has adopted a tough stance, threatening to “eliminate” the CNRP if it goes ahead with plans for mass demonstrations.

In recent days, however, the CPP appears to have softened its stance, with the premier hinting at possible negotiations at the National Assembly.

Warning against “fighting”, Kheng said it was time to “sit together” and “create a multi-party democracy” where opponents were considered “competitors”, not “enemies”.

Though Kheng was once a leader within a faction of the CPP loyal to the late Chea Sim, once a rival to Hun Sen’s own powerbase, political analyst Ou Virak said he believed the interior minister’s comments were part of a “good cop, bad cop” strategy, rather than a sign of dissent within the ruling party’s ranks.

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton



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savath.pou's picture

Dear Mech Dara,
I wrote my article "Culture of dialogue or culture of outsmarting each other?" more than 5 months ago. But I think it's still relevant today and it will remain so as long as the two major political parties do not steer away from the path they have adopted thus far. And below is my article.

Culture of dialogue or culture of outsmarting each other?

In the aftermath of 2014’s bloody post-election season and a tense 10 months’ political standoff between CNRP supporters and the Royal Government of Cambodia, a series of negotiations took place between CNRP and CPP top leaders in order to break the so undesirable political deadlock which would not have happened if national interests were placed above party politics in both the camps. After realizing that the discontent within business communities was widespread, the two rivals agreed to end the standoff which eventually unlocked the doors of the National Assembly and, by the process, allowed this first chamber of the Legislative to function normally until today.
Being satisfied with the outcome, both parties, the CNRP and the CPP, named the entire negotiation process “the culture of dialogue”. For the general public, it may sound alright. For me, nonetheless, it’s so disgusting as I was about to throw up every time I heard that ugly phrase of “Culture of Dialogue. Why?
This is the reason why. The definition of the word "culture" says "the arts, customs, lifestyles, backgrounds and habits that characterize a particular society or nation". Therefore, it naturally takes such things as arts, customs, lifestyles, backgrounds and habits hundreds or even thousands of years to take roots, develop, adapt, mature and then be able to symbolize a nation, definitely not a few weeks or a few months as cast out to the public by leaders of both the Cambodian People's Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The leaders of both the camps are not dumb, they are very smart. In my opinion, therefore, they invented that slogan of "culture of dialogue” firstly to lullaby the unsatisfied business community which experienced losses in time, revenue and sometimes irrecoverable investment opportunities, and secondly, to just outsmart each other for the benefit of their own camp, definitely not for the benefit of our nation at all.
Phnom Penh, 20 February 2016.
Savath Pou,
Senator Expelled.

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