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CNRP requests meeting with King as tensions rise

German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller (left) and CNRP spokesman Nhem Panharith (right) enter the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday for a meeting.
German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller (left) and CNRP spokesman Nhem Panharith (right) enter the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday for a meeting. Hong Menea

CNRP requests meeting with King as tensions rise

The Cambodian National Rescue Party yesterday formally requested an audience with the King to discuss the country’s heated political climate, and floated the possibility of multi-party talks involving the international community after its embattled acting president, Kem Sokha, met with a delegation of German officials.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said the letter to King Norodom Sihamoni was required given the escalating political tensions in Cambodia, which had caught the attention of the international community.

The tensions revolve around Sokha, who has been holed up at party headquarters since police moved to arrest him a little over two weeks ago for failing to heed court summonses relating to a sex scandal involving him and an alleged mistress.

Four rights workers, an election official and a local CNRP official have also been jailed in relation to the alleged affair. Meanwhile, party president Sam Rainsy is in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time, and two other opposition lawmakers are currently in detention over comments made on Facebook regarding the Vietnamese border.

“It is not only the opposition party talking about the heated political situation,” he said. “The United Nations, European Union, United States and Germany – they worry about our country’s situation.”

Chhay said that, given an opportunity to meet the King, the party would also consider marching and delivering to him a petition with close to 240,000 thumbprints calling for his intervention in the crisis. A previous petition is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Interior after allegations of fake thumbprints emerged.

In late April, the opposition had requested the King assume his constitutional role of arbiter, and curb what they maintained was the politicisation of the judiciary in the conduct of the cases against its members.

Kong Sam Ol, minister for the Royal Palace, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Opposition members also met with a German delegation, led by German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller and Ambassador Joachim Baron von Marschall.

Following the meeting, Muller released a statement saying: “The right of assembly and the right of free expression of opinion are guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution. Human rights are one of the pillars of sustainable and inclusive development.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party was pleased to hear the delegation’s commitment to protecting the rights of the people and opposition. He added that a suggestion was made to explore the possibility of talks between the CNRP, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the international community.

“We provided a solution to call for an international meeting between CPP, CNRP, EU representative and maybe UN representative,” he said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said international bodies did not get involved in political issues, and the CNRP could make as many requests as they wanted to.

“The United Nations has never summonsed parties to meet. The UN and EU do not work with the political parties, they work with the Royal Government,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Muller also met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, with the premier warning the EU not to get caught up in the CNRP’s view of the political situation.

“Samdech requested the EU to not listen and receive information only from the opposition,” said Eang Sophallet, spokesman for Hun Sen. “They must understand the process of the law in order to avoid of wrong exaggerations, especially a country with sovereignty like Cambodia.”

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