Former deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Mu Sochua on Monday called for “reconciliation” between Cambodian politicians to solve what she claimed is the current political “crisis”. She also called for the “strengthening of the rule of law” in the Kingdom.
In response, while Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan welcomed her call to strengthen the rule of law, he mocked her demands for reconciliation as “old-fashioned” and urged the opposition to respect the decisions of the courts.
Speaking via Facebook live from the Thai capital, Bangkok, where she attended a meeting of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, Sochua said reconciliation between Cambodian politicians was an important step in solving the political crisis.
She said the decision of the Supreme Court in November last year to dissolve the CNRP was “very unjust”.
“The dissolution of the CNRP was made by the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decision was very unjust because the judges were [biased]. They are afraid of political power. [The judiciary] is not an independent institution,” Sochua claimed.
She called for the strengthening of the rule of law in the Kingdom, a neutral and independent judicial system and the separation of the powers of the three branches of government – the legislative, executive and judiciary.
“[We] need to strengthen state institutions to provide justice for the people,” she said.
The beginning of a dialogue for reconciliation, she said, would be one way to help end the political crisis.
“We cannot have national reconciliation unless we have a dialogue to solve our national problems together, as a family. Like when we have a crisis in the family, we should sit down and solve our national issue ourselves,” she said.
However, Sochua said the first step to ending the political crisis was to “release” former CNRP leader Kem Sokha from “house arrest”.
“I still believe we can reconcile our nation – release Kem Sokha and then open a dialogue for the benefit of all,” she said.
Siphan said on Monday that strengthening the rule of law is something the government was already doing.
“I want to tell [Sochua] that we are strengthening the judicial process for the people via judicial reform, but you [must be] the first to strengthen the rule of law. You must respect the decision of the courts [regarding Sokha and the CNRP].
“[To me] the words ‘reconciliation’ and ‘national unity’ are old- fashioned because, in this modern era, we created a ‘culture of dialogue’, but Mu Sochua and Sam Rainsy are using the culture of impunity instead,” he said.
The culture of dialogue between the former opposition and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) began in 2014 when Hun Sen and former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy reached an agreement to end the opposition’s nearly year-long boycott of parliament following disputed 2013 national elections.
“When we talk about the rule of law, there is no one above the law. The one who violates the law must be [punished],” he said.
“We can’t accept reconciliation to violate the law. With the court’s punishment, please wait for five years [before returning to politics]. The punishment was not meted out by the government but by the courts.”
Analyst Meas Nee said he welcomed future reconciliation between both sides – the ruling CPP and former opposition CNRP. “Any process that leads to reconciliation is important for our society. Since the beginning, I have supported this idea,” Nee said.
“Currently, even though the government says Cambodia has no political crisis, we still see a split between the Kingdom’s politicians, with some accused of treason and others not allowed to be involved in politics.”
Nee said a consequence of this “split” between politicians would be damage to their reputations if they continued to be divisive.
“If our politicians continue to split, our nation will not develop well, [and then] leaders of both the CPP and CNRP will have their reputations [harmed],” he said.