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Party rejects Consultation Forum to avoid ‘mess’

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Leaders of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) run an election campaign in July. Heng Chivoan

Party rejects Consultation Forum to avoid ‘mess’

Having previously expressed interest in joining the prime minister’s “Consultation Forum”, senior officials from the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) and Our Motherland Party (OMP) have now rejected the chance to join the body, with one anxious to avoid “getting stuck in the mess”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said membership of the forum was purely voluntary and “we do not regret [the decision] as it is their position”.

Fifteen political parties agreed with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on August 21 to create the Consultation Forum as called for by Prime Minister Hun Sen, with the multiparty body aiming to monitor the implementation of laws at the national and sub-national levels.

At the time, four political parties – the League for Democracy Party, GDP, Khmer Anti-Poverty Party and OMP – declined to join.

By the end of that month, the GDP and the OMP expressed interest in joining the forum, with Hun Sen asking them to send a letter of request. But they have since gone back on the decision.

OMP leader Chan Bun Horn told The Post on Monday: “The more we know about government affairs, the more trouble we will get into.”

In August, Hun Sen spoke of the forum as opening a “culture of dialogue” to solve national issues. He said it would give opportunities to other political parties that competed in the July 29 national elections but did not win any National Assembly seats to provide feedback and monitor the government’s performance.

Bun Horn told The Post on Monday that his party held a meeting recently and decided not to join the forum. But he said he welcomed the body if it led to more effective government reforms.

“We will not join because firstly, [the government] seemed to persuade us to join, but later on, the government asked us to file a request, which I will not do."

“It changed the conditions because I missed joining at the beginning. If they want me to join, I have to ask for permission to join them! The more we we know about government affairs, the more trouble we will get into,” he said.

When asked whether his party will consider joining the Consultation Forum later, Bun Horn was pessimistic, saying: “At the moment, it is a complete mess, and I will not get involved in the mess.”

He said he can better fulfil his party’s obligations outside the forum, but he will monitor the situation.

GDP leader Yang Saing Koma told The Post on Monday that his party held a meeting on October 21 to formally decide not to join the forum.

“We have made a formal decision that we will not join the consultation forum, but we welcome dialogue with other political parties, especially the government, through other mechanisms,” he said

Though he said he believed in the spirit of the forum as part of his party’s policy on national unity as laid out in its manifesto, he said the GDP has other tasks to attend to.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that political parties have the right whether or not to join the Consultation Forum.

He said the body’s membership was voluntary, and political parties wishing to join have to make a request to the prime minister.

Cambodian Youth Party leader Pich Sros who is a member of the forum, said that though it has only existed for two months, the body had already produced some positive results, such as the protection of Prek Treng beach in Preah Sihanouk province and the offering of land titles to 59 families in Siem Reap province, among others.

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