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Opposition claims merger progress

Leader from the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties said they have achieved progress towards a negotiated merger in the latest round of talks between party leaders, according to a joint statement issued on Friday.

The statement follows three meetings this month between working groups from both parties to negotiate a union that aims to bolster opposition candidates’ chances against ruling Cambodian People’s Party members in commune elections next year and national polls in 2013.

Leaders from both parties said the two sides have agreed to a framework for the merger that is moving in the right direction.

“In merging the parties, the first step requires us to have confidence in each other,” SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday.

“We have the will to merge. Importantly, if we have the will, I believe that step-by-step we will move forward towards [a merger].”

Human Rights Party parliamentarian Kiet Sokun expressed similar optimism that both sides had found common ground for a lasting unification of the parties.

“We do not [seek a merger] for only one election but for the future and to rule our country,” he said. “The general framework of the merger has been agreed.”

However, negotiations have been contentious despite recent claims of progress. HRP President Khem Sokha said earlier this month that a proposed union of the parties would dissolve his party by bringing it under the control of the SRP.

Both sides have also previously sparred over the unified opposition party’s name.

Kiet Sokun refused to give specific details about the status of a name for the unified party but said that according to the framework for the merger, the party would not be called the Sam Rainsy Party.

Cheam Yeap, a senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said the ruling party did not fear the union of opposition parties, and chided Sam Rainsy and Khem Sokha for not being able to live in the same house.

“We are not scared of the SRP and HRP merger. I know the vision of both parties’ leaders is not the same.”

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