Cambodia National Rescue Party acting president Kem Sokha cancelled plans to attend Tuesday’s National Assembly plenary session because his requests to discuss a political deal with Prime Minister Hun Sen had fallen on deaf ears, an opposition spokesman said yesterday.
The CNRP had said earlier this week that the opposition leader would attend parliament in a bid to meet the premier and find a way to resolve a raft of legal cases against the opposition and government opponents.
But whilst opposition lawmakers attended the session – ending their months-long boycott of the legislature – the CNRP deputy leader stayed away, instead presiding over a ceremony to remember the victims of the 2010 Koh Pich stampede.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Sokha skipped the session because his entreaties to the premier to talk about a deal had yielded no response.
“He had the intention of wanting to talk and solve problems and hoped that there would be a positive answer but when His Excellency Kem Sokha contacted [the CPP’s leader], there was no answer,” Sovann said.
“So he still continues his political strike.”
Responding yesterday, spokesman for the Cambodian People’s Party Sok Eysan called Sokha’s decision “his business”.
“Don’t blame the People’s Party for not responding,” said Eysan, who suggested that the act of Sokha attending parliament would have been a step forward in relations between the parties.
“If [Kem Sokha] wants to meet, why not go to the parliament?” he said.
Sentenced to five months in prison for refusing to answer questions over an alleged affair with a hairdresser, Sokha has been holed up at the CNRP headquarters since late May to avoid arrest, leaving only once, to register to vote.
At the same time, CNRP president Sam Rainsy is abroad to avoid arrest in a separate case, while two opposition lawmakers and 15 party activists are in prison. The cases are widely seen as the CPP using its sway over the courts to weaken its political opponents.
The CPP, however, maintains they are strictly “criminal matters” and has said that it will not discuss a political deal with the CNRP until the cases are processed by the court.
During his address yesterday, Sovann, the CNRP spokesman, also criticised the CPP for failing to help more than 1 million Cambodians abroad register to vote, claiming the ruling party intentionally disenfranchised those citizens because they were opposition supporters.
He also said the party planned to lodge a complaint with the National Election Committee, claiming opposition observers discovered 3,000 foreigners had registered to vote, almost “99 percent” of them Vietnamese.