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Eighteen of 20 parties now in forum after GDP, OMLP join

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
GDP board of directors chairman Yang Saing Koma. Pha Lina

Eighteen of 20 parties now in forum after GDP, OMLP join

Two more parties have decided to participate in the Consultation Forum, which had its inaugural meeting last week. This brings its membership to 18 of the 20 parties that participated in the July 29 national elections.

However, the leaders of the latest parties to sign up said they disapproved of the idea that advisers receive a government stipend.

Initially floated by Prime Minister-designate Hun Sen shortly after the final election results, the forum was convened on August 21, and saw leaders from opposition parties gather at the capital’s Peace Palace to discuss the role of the newly formed body.

At the time, members of the League for Democracy Party (LDP), the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP), the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party (KAPP) and the Our Motherland Party (OMLP) declined to participate.

But on Monday, party leaders from the GDP and the OMLP announced their group’s intention to take part, despite not yet having sent a formal letter to the government.

GDP board of directors chairman Yang Saing Koma told The Post on Monday that he supported mechanisms that allow opposition parties to participate in the consultation.

“I welcome it. It’s good for government leaders to create a forum, or some mechanism allowing parties outside the National Assembly to participate in discussions and consult with the government. We can do it regularly. Let’s say once every month or once every three months.

“But I think it is not necessary for members of the [Consultation Forum] to have positions, salaries, cars or financial benefits. Why? Like it or not, this is a role for political parties to serve the people and their supporters,” he said.

Saing Koma said instead of party leaders receiving funds, they should be given to the small parties themselves, which often lack enough funding for operations.

“A small part of the national budget should be set aside to support parties. Therefore, they can conduct research, educate people and consult with them regarding legal matters and government policies. We would welcome that,” he said.

Similarly, OMLP president Chan Bunhorn, whose party boycotted the initial meeting, on Monday told The Post it had held internal discussions and decided to participate in the forum.

The OMLP too had yet to send a formal letter indicating their position to the government.

“We have talked about the issue. We decided on our [position], but we have to send an official letter. We all agreed that we should do what we can to benefit the people. We have to persist and struggle ahead."

“I say struggle because after we go [to the forum] critics will insult us. We don’t mind, we must go ahead,” he said.

Echoing Saing Koma, Bunhorn said he doesn’t want any paid position within the government. “I live a simple life. I am not a millionaire, but I have food. My work can help the people if I participate, and the people will benefit, so I want to go,” he said.

In contrast, Sin Vannarith, secretary general of the KAPP, doubled down on the party’s initial boycott of the group which was trumpeted by the ruling party as building a “culture of dialogue”.

“We still hold the same position and will not participate. First, we believe our participation has to provide advantages for society and the people,” he said.

After the court dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last year, the KAPP was offered five seats within the National Assembly by the National Election Committee (NEC). The party turned down the offer.

“We declined the seats at that time because it contradicted with the KAPP’s policies and the people’s will . . . we don’t want positions to just go there and read newspapers,” he said.

LDP stays out

Representatives from the LDP could not be reached on Monday, but Kov Kea, the party’s spokesman, previously told The Post that it wouldn’t participate in the body unless government decisions could be overturned.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
LDP leader Khem Veasna. Heng Chivoan

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the forum remains open to all political parties. But those that were absent from the inaugural meeting needed to get Hun Sen’s approval.

Regarding the move to give party leaders advisory positions within the government, Siphan said it was an honour which gave them a platform to meet voters and supporters, but not necessarily fill permanent roles.

“Titles of ‘adviser to the government’ are not government positions. They are just titles that help them promote their party’s policies,” he said.

Weighing in on the Consultation Forum, political analyst Meas Nee said that, despite controlling many seats in the National Assembly, most of the advice dispensed by the court dissolved CNRP was shot down by the CPP.

“What is their [opposition party leaders’] ability after the government gives them opportunities? If it is strictly limited, what will happen when they work with the relevant ministries?"

“Will they listen? They did not do so in the past. They wouldn’t even listen to an elected party in the National Assembly,” he said.

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