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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No resolution in sight for ousted opposition PMs

No resolution in sight for ousted opposition PMs

The opposition party has appealed to international donors to question Cambodia's

democratic integrity when they meet this month to assess the government's progress

toward reform promises.

The donor-government meeting will be the second quarterly checkup on performance-monitoring

indicators that the government agreed to in return for $504 million of aid for 2005.

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is seeking international support to revoke the stripping

of parliamentary immunity from three senior MPs, which led to the arrest of Cheam

Channy, and prompted leader Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch to flee the country.

"When there is no voice of the opposition parliamentarians in the National Assembly

and the Senate, I think that donor communities should consider the role of democracy

in Cambodia," said Eng Chhay Eang, secretary general of the SRP.

From exile in France, Sam Rainsy wrote to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of

the National Assembly (NA) and the Funcinpec party, requesting a meeting to resolve

the question of immunity and stop the SRP's boycott of the parliament.

Another opposition MP, Son Chhay, met Ranariddh on March 11 to ask that Channy be

allowed to stay under house arrest and to allow Rainsy and Poch to attend sessions

of the NA, due to resume late August.

Chhay said Ranariddh had promised to ask Hun Sen about the matter.

"I hope that the Samdech Krom Preah [Ranariddh] will play his role as the president

of NA to protect his members," Chhay said. "I think that Channy is member

of NA, he should not be detained in custody."

Channy is being held in military custody on charges of organized crime, fraud and

raising a rebel army for the SRP. Some analysts have said Channy's detention is illegal

because he is not a member of the Cambodian military. His physical and mental health

is deteriorating according to friends who have visited him.

Sam Rainsy and Chea Poch face charges of defamation stemming from their allegations

that Ranariddh accepted a large bribe from Prime Minister Hun Sen to form the coalition

government. Rainsy remains in France and Poch is in the United States.

Ok Serei Sopheak, a veteran political observer, said the three main parties should

use the legal system to resolve the situation.

"Even if the court is neither independent nor fair, all leaders of political

parties have already decided to use them," said Sopheak. "So, I think that

there is no obstacle for the self-exiled Rainsy and Poch to come back the country

and sit to talk about resolving the conflict."

"There are many thing that leaders of the three main political parties need

to do for the whole society, not just for their party's interest," said Sopheak.

Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information and spokesman for the Cambodian People's

Party, said the issue was already in the court system and "the CPP has no power

to make a new decision over the jurisdiction of the court".

Despite being hobbled by the lack of their leader, the SRP will push on with an extensive

party reform program, beginning in June and lasting six months, said Eng Chhay Eang.

He said that the SRP steering committee adopted a new strategy on May 9 for strengthening

the party's structure and democracy from the villages up to the provincial level.

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