Following an escalation in political tensions after the attempted arrest of the opposition’s acting president Kem Sokha, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s Eng Chhay Eang yesterday verbally requested the National Assembly start negotiations with the ruling party.
Chhay Eang said negotiations could use working groups created by each party last year to restart the much-touted “culture of dialogue” process, which had ultimately broken down.
“We should let both groups meet and debate over the culture of dialogue, because currently the culture of dialogue is not working,” he said.
He added that no agenda or schedule had been set for the proposed meeting and that he was yet to send an official communication to the CPP, having only verbally requested it with National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long.
Peng Long yesterday confirmed the CNRP’s request, adding that the opposition had proposed a meeting without laying out any pre-conditions for talks.
“[The CNRP] working group led by Pol Ham proposed to negotiate with [the CPP] working group led by Prum Sokha to push forward the culture of dialogue,” Peng Long said
Following CNRP president Sam Rainsy’s self-imposed exile last November and Sokha’s removal as the parliament’s first vice president, Interior Minister Sar Kheng met with Sokha to set up working groups to restart inter-party talks, as well as look at other legislative issues on the table at the time.
The CPP selected Interior Ministry secretary of state Prum Sokha to lead its delegation at the time, and Pol Ham headed the CNRP’s group, supported by five other CNRP members.
Speaking to supporters outside the CNRP headquarters yesterday, Ham said the two groups needed to meet before the rising political tensions could be discussed by senior party leaders. “So far, we have tried to have a meeting,” Ham said.
“But the [CPP] first said it was busy, and then said the [CNRP] did not have a leader to conduct negotiations.”He said Sokha could negotiate with the CPP’s top brass in Rainsy’s absence.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the party was not sure if the same group would represent it, and insinuated that negotiations could not secure the release of jailed opposition members. “If this means the agenda will include abuse of the competence of the court, that is impossible.”