The Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party held a second round of high-level talks yesterday, but concluded the meeting before coming to any further agreements so that each party could “take a breath” and deliberate internally, party spokesmen said.
Both parties expressed hope they would be able to find common ground before the opening session of parliament on September 23, but yesterday’s meeting – presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy – did not yield a joint statement like the one released on Monday.
Speaking to reporters after the closed-door meeting, opposition spokesman Yim Sovann and his ruling party counterpart Prak Sokhon said both parties would hold internal discussions before returning to the negotiating table.
“We had a thorough discussion to find out the common points for resolving important national interests, [but] a big gap remained about numerous reforms of very important national institutions,” Sovann said, insisting that, nevertheless, the parties had “discussed with mutual understanding and respect”.
Sovann added that the two parties were approaching agreement on many issues but declined to comment in detail on the reforms in question due to the lack of consensus.
“We are still hoping to break through the political stalemate while we are taking a breath,” Sovann said.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay, who attended yesterday’s talks, also declined to comment on the content of the discussion.
However, he said, “I think we’re feeling that we understand each other better.”
CPP spokesman Sokhon expressed a similar view after the three-hour meeting and said that the parties “are now on the same track of resolving the problem, but we need more time”.
“Even if we don’t agree 100 per cent, it will lead to [agreement] in the future,” he added.
Sovann, however, reiterated the CNRP’s stance yesterday that it would not be taking its seats in parliament unless an independent committee was formed to investigate the irregularities of the July election.
The CPP, for its part, has maintained that it can lawfully claim the opposition’s seats if it refuses to attend the opening session of the National Assembly, while Sokhon said yesterday that only the King had the right to delay the Assembly’s opening.
Nonetheless, both parties promised to meet again before the September 23 deadline.
Despite the lingering divisions, political analyst Chea Vannath said that she was optimistic that the two parties could move forward.
“I hope that this process of talks between the two parties will find a way out [of the deadlock], and will bring checks and balances during the fifth mandate of the National Assembly,” she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA AND STUART WHITE