Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha has called on Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy to use the recently forged “culture of dialogue” with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to push the government to reform the judiciary.
But a ruling party spokesman yesterday demanded that the CNRP leaders put forward specific changes they want to see made to the way the courts are run before accepting criticisms from their rivals.
Speaking to hundreds of CNRP supporters in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district on Saturday, Sokha said that true peace in Cambodia would remain elusive until the courts were reformed and independence guaranteed.
“I understand that if the society does not have justice there cannot be peace, both of the body and of the mind. So I would like both party leaders to make dialogue on the issue of reform of the judicial system a priority,” he said.
He also urged CNRP supporters not to lose faith in the opposition, calling on them to renew trust in the party and avoid rifts that could divide supporters, cautioning that the CNRP could lose the next election – scheduled for February 2018 – if the party is not united.
“To win the upcoming election, we must make people have belief in [the CNRP]. If Sam Rainsy does have not trust in Kem Sokha, Kem Sokha does not have trust in Sam Rainsy. So we would be giving up without a fight,” he said.
Rainsy ordered the party, including Sokha, to curb anti-CPP rhetoric after Prime Minister Hun Sen in April complained that the party’s use of inflammatory language was contrary to the spirit of the long-awaited agreement on July 22, 2014, that ended almost a year of political deadlock and street protests following the 2013 election.
Rainsy is currently on a fundraising tour of North America and did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
CPP spokesman Suos Yara said that while the party would welcome moves to reform the judiciary, it would need to see concrete policy changes put forward by the opposition.
He claimed that the government had already taken steps to reform the courts since taking office, referring to three controversial draft laws on the judiciary, which rights groups have slammed as draconian.
“The Cambodian People’s Party welcomes all of this providing that [the CNRP is] happy to receive criticism about the points it raises, so we can build up a harmonious way of living,” he said.