Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy laid out concrete demands for the composition of the National Election Committee yesterday while also holding out the threat of mass demonstrations, even as behind-the-scenes talks between the opposition and ruling party continued.
Speaking to supporters in Kampot province, Rainsy said he planned to suggest in an upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen that the two parties and civil society have equal representation on the NEC, and that failing that, the opposition would return to the streets.
“Now, the NEC has nine members. [We] must give it three members of the Cambodian People’s Party, three members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and three neutral people,” he said. “They would check and balance each other to be responsible, not biased.
“If [we] are in accord, and talks go in a peaceful way, we would be happy to laud” any agreement, he continued. “If [we] talk without a good result, [we] will hold demonstrations.”
Despite the threats of renewed protests, a scheduled meeting between CNRP lawmaker-elect Son Chhay and CPP representative Prum Sokha took place yesterday morning, according to opposition lawmaker-elect Tioulong Saumura.
However, Saumura said, she was not aware of what was discussed, and multiple attempts to reach members of both parties for comment on the meeting were unsuccessful. Chheang Vun, a regular member of the CPP’s negotiating party, said yesterday that he had no knowledge of any meeting, but that Rainsy’s proposed NEC formula was untenable, and asserted that the CPP’s majority should be reflected in an extra seat at the committee.
“[We] cannot accept this. No one has ever let a minority party put conditions on a majority party,” he said. “When [a party] wins more seats, [that party] must occupy more seats.”
Vun declined to name a date for the planned meeting between Rainsy and Hun Sen, but said that closed-door talks had gone smoothly so far and that he expected the two leaders to give Cambodians a “gift” before Khmer New Year, which begins next week.
Koul Panha, executive director of the election watchdog Comfrel, said yesterday that Rainsy’s NEC proposal would foster debate and balance, and would prevent seemingly lopsided decisions like those seen in the past.
“We cannot allow anyone to dominate anyone in the NEC, otherwise, it will have the same problems” as before, Panha said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE