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US ambassador to Cambodia William E Todd greets members of the press during a military training rally in Kampong Speu
US ambassador to Cambodia William E Todd greets members of the press during a military training rally in Kampong Speu province in June. MENG KIMLONG

US envoy calls for party talks

Peaceful and constructive dialogue will enable the ruling and opposition parties to “overcome the current impasse”, US ambassador to Cambodia William Todd has said.

In a frank column in local media on Sunday, linked to from the US embassy in Phnom Penh’s website, Todd said the political climate was “unprecedented” and the stage set for leaders to act in the interest of voters.

“For the next step, I believe that both major political parties need to return to the negotiating table to chart a way forward that is in the best interests of all Cambodians,” he wrote.

“Peaceful and constructive dialogue can and will overcome the current impasse … A resolution achieved through dialogue would set the stage for progress in all aspects of Cambodia’s development.”

A number of countries – including Australia, France and Japan – have congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party on winning the July 28 election. The US, UK and the European Union, among other foreign powers, however, have yet to lend their official support to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

The United States has continued to back calls for an independent investigation into election irregularities.

“In my opinion, peaceful protests, supported by proper government security, demonstrate positive movement in the right direction and should become a normal and accepted part of Cambodia’s democratic process,” the column continued.

Both the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday cautiously welcomed the renewed call for dialogue, but there was no sign that a breakthrough could be in the offing.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the party leadership had not yet received a proposal for talks from the CNRP.

“It depends on my party leaders, especially Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Samdech Heng Samrin – [they are] the decider of everything,” he said.

“We have just heard that Sam Rainsy will reopen negotiations; we have not seen any proposal … The stance of the Cambodian People’s Party, [is that] we are keeping the door open, but how it happens is up to my party presidents,” he added, seemingly softening his stance of a day ago, in which he said the CPP would only negotiate with the CNRP once it had agreed to take their seats in parliament.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that if and when negotiations take place, they must address serious issues, such as economic disparity, as well as election justice.

“We want the government to come to the table to talk about what the people want, not just what the CNRP wants, but what all Cambodian people want,” he said. “If the government is serious about [addressing] things like the distribution of wealth, they must let people participate and have their views heard.”

“Cambodia has yet another deadlock on its hands, when the reality is that the CPP and CNRP [initially] made some headway in terms of post-election negotiatons,” political analyst Peter Tan Keo said. “That’s when Todd should have come out with his support. It’s too little, too late now.”

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