Following a high-level meeting yesterday, Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said that his party would seek to restart negotiations with the ruling party and possibly join the government.
The move marks an apparent about-turn from a party press conference held on Wednesday when Rainsy threatened a general strike against the “illegitimate” government and said the CNRP’s leverage would be strongest if it remained outside parliament.
“I just want to inform you that we would consider taking up seats in the National Assembly after we hold negotiations with the CPP,” Rainsy told the Post yesterday evening.
“In those negotiations, we are going to ask for immediate reforms that require no time and no money to implement.”
Rainsy added that his party had drawn up a list of 10 demands, the first of which remains an investigation to “assess and address” election irregularities.
Immediate measures required by the opposition would include a halt of deforestation and land grabs by private companies granted economic land concessions.
These two issues were mentioned in the government’s five-year strategy released on Wednesday.
Following the approval of the cabinet in a single, unanimous vote at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that the CPP – for its part – still had “the door open for renegotiation” with the opposition.
The CNRP has maintained that the swearing-in of the government without the 55 opposition lawmakers present amounted to a “constitutional coup”.
Rainsy also said yesterday that the CNRP would ask for the establishment of a mechanism that included the opposition, civil society representatives and local community members to ensure any promised reforms are properly implemented.
Hun Sen on Wednesday threatened to release recordings on Facebook proving the CNRP had agreed to abandon its call for an investigation in return for top National Assembly positions during negotiations last week.
Perhaps in response to that, the CNRP president yesterday said that further negotiations would have to be “transparent”, to prove to the public that the party was not asking for government positions.
“We want to present our ideas clearly, and we want to share [them]. There will be no secret talks … and we would be happy if it would be broadcast nationally,” Rainsy said. “If there are any positions, it’s just to ensure the implementation of reforms. But most important are the reforms themselves.”
Political analyst Kem Ley said the change in the CNRP’s approach was a good move by the party, as it puts the people’s needs before politics.
“I think it’s good if they start to negotiate for in-depth reforms.… They should push the government to effectively manage immigration, land grabbing, anti-corruption, the fight against nepotism and also building the standard of public service,” he said.
Although the CNRP have yet to publicly release its 10-point reform agenda, Ley said he hoped it would target ineffective national mechanisms such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Council and the Constitutional Council.
He added that the investigation into irregularities should not be used to change the election result but to reform the National Election Committee.
“They must think of all the challenges that happened since the start of the election, [not just the result],” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA