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Opposition tells CPP: Agree, or talks off

CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha addresses supporters in Phnom Penh last month
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha addresses supporters in Phnom Penh last month. Yesterday, the opposition leader said that bilateral party negotiations will halt unless a resolution is set by the year’s end. Pha Lina

Opposition tells CPP: Agree, or talks off

Opposition leaders have given the ruling party an ultimatum: Agree to our demands by the end of the year or the talks are over.

Kem Sokha, Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president, said yesterday that after discussing the matter with party president Sam Rainsy, they had decided to issue the ultimatum and warn the authorities that further mass demonstrations would be held if they did not comply.

“We give the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from now until the end of the year. If we can’t determine the reality of the election irregularities by then we have a new plan – negotiations will be over,” he said.

Sokha added that if the party’s demands – an independent electoral investigation, the resignation of members of the National Election Committee and the implementation of reforms recommended by the UN and election monitors – were not met, rallies that would dwarf those held in late October would be organised.

The announcement came less than a week after Rainsy said his party would not set pre-conditions for talks with the CPP. The parties held a largely fruitless discussion on Tuesday, pledging to hold more meetings in the future.

The ruling party has thus far refused to discuss an electoral investigation, pointing to a September 16 agreement between the parties that committed only to electoral reform.

Prum Sokha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said it would be difficult for the CPP to accept all the demands of the opposition, adding the move was probably a bid to score political points coming so soon after the public withdrawal of pre-conditions.

The CNRP could be making this announcement “out of more political than legal motivations”, he said. “No one can force the NEC to resign because it’s an independent institution founded in the law.”

While the new two-month deadline for dialogue would be enough time to yield results, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak called for patience from both sides to end the deadlock.

“The main national interest is to keep both sides at the negotiation table,” he said. “If [they] want fast [results], they should state clearly how to achieve it.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

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