Prime Minister-designate Hun Sen raised eyebrows last week with his call for the establishment of a “Consultation Forum” where opposition parties that failed to take any seats in the National Assembly could make their voices heard.
Trumpeted under the banner of a “culture of dialogue”, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) president also called for opposition party presidents to be brought into the government as advisers.
Set for its inaugural meeting today, the forum will be missing a few key names as four opposition parties have already announced they won’t be attending.
The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP), led by Yeng Virak, the League for Democracy Party (LDP), led by Khem Veasna, the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party (KAPP) and the Our Motherland Party (OMP) have all openly declined Hun Sen’s invitation.
Speaking about the forum on his Facebook page on Monday, Hun Sen said: “Tomorrow [Tuesday], I will meet and share a meal with people from the 20 political parties at the Peace Palace.
“We will discuss the creation of the “Supreme Council of Consultation” between the government and the parties that participated in the elections.
“Because sharing opinions will bring about positive benefits for national development, it also shows that we are united and have true independence in a democratic way,” he said.
Khmer Will Party (KWP) president Kong Monika on Monday confirmed that he would attend the forum and raise topics for discussion.
“We have already said that we will attend. We will talk about labour, health, education and election issues. Regarding Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statements, the KWP has not understood his clear purpose,” he said.
Meanwhile, KAPP secretary-general Sin Vannarith said on Monday that his party had declined the invitation.
“First of all, we don’t recognise the results of the election. Second, we decline all positions that might be given by the new government. We cannot accept because it is not the will of the people who support us,” Vannarith said.
“At one point, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was providing an opportunity to all parties to share their opinions in the new government.
However, he said he would not allow any political parties to include [their own] party policies in the new government . . . even if we provide comments or new opinions . . . it is still not effective,” he said.
Fifty per cent RSVP
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Monday that more than 50 per cent of registered political parties confirmed they would attend the forum.
“This is a new culture created by Hun Sen ... having this forum means partnering with political parties, so all who did not win National Assembly seats [can have] their opinions heard in the government,” he said.
Commenting on parties that had chosen not to attend, Siphan said it was their right, and that they had chosen to see the government as an adversary.
“Not coming is their right. But it also means they view the government as their enemy, so it is rebellious,” he said.
Analyst Hang Vitou said he welcomes the move for more dialogue, but questioned how the forum would benefit the nation.
“Participation is a good thing, but just shaking hands or staging a show will not benefit the nation. If they want to participate in building the Kingdom, I think they should have clear mechanisms and stated purposes for the meeting,” he said.