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Opposition party and US to talk Rainsy return

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Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha (L), Sam Rainsy (C) and SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua attend a press conference together in August 2008 in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha (L), Sam Rainsy (C) and SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua attend a press conference together in August 2008 in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The trio at the head of Cambodia’s newly merged opposition party is heading to Washington early next month to talk with unnamed US Congressional and State Department officials about bringing their absentee leader, Sam Rainsy, back to take part in the 2013 national elections.

“The question is, will the US accept a government that does not respect the will of the people?” asked opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua in an interview yesterday, implicitly referring to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Sochua is aligned with the new Cambodian Democratic Movement for National Rescue, a union forged in Manila this month between the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party.

The US is seen as a country that can effect human-rights change in Cambodia – at least in the eyes of the 13 Boeung Kak women released on June 27 after being sentenced in May to two and a half years in prison.

They believe talks US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Washington helped secure their freedom.

Travelling with Sochua to Washington from August 7 to 15 are Rainsy and Human Rights Party head Khem Sokha.

US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh confirmed that Sochua met with embassy Chargé d’Affaires Jeff Daigle on Monday to discuss the national elections in Cambodia and that the embassy is helping to arrange meetings in the capital.

Whether she and top members of the Cambodian Democratic Movement for National Rescue will have any luck there is another matter.

Sochua declined to answer questions about what-if scenarios should Rainsy fail to return and campaign in elections next year.

When asked if Sokha could lead the party, she said the HRP head “is very clear in his heart and his mind that his energy will be for the return of Sam Rainsy. And Mr Sam Rainsy will be a candidate for the premiership”.

Sokha didn’t seem to disagree. “This meeting, we will tell them that we have already merged because they want to see us joining hands with Sam Rainsy,” Sokha said.

A spokesman for the CPP said foreigners cannot interfere in Cambodian sovereignty because the government has been elected by the people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at sokchea.meas@phnompenhpost.com

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