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Opposition sparks more merger rumours

Opposition sparks more merger rumours

SRP, HRP officials now say they may consider merging under one name, but remain vague on timing or details

OFFICIALS with the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties say they will explore the possibility of uniting under one name to contest future national elections.

HRP Secretary General Yem Ponharith told the Post Wednesday that leaders from both parties have begun discussions of a merger but were afraid of attempts by other political parties to block the plan.

 "Our goal is to combine as one party to compete for the next election mandate, [but] we know they do not want us to unite. They want to separate us," Yem Ponharith said.

Yem Ponharith said party officials are not concerned about leadership positions within a united party but with their ability to get approval for the coalition.

 "We will combine as one party, and we have not put a time limit on this. But the sooner we do this, the better," he said.

HRP President Kem Sokha could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but he told the radio program Voice of America last week that the parties, led by Sam Rainsy, must unite for future elections.

 "We have already decided this. We must join with the SRP, which will be led by Sam Rainsy," he told Voice of America radio, adding that details remained to be worked out but that both parties would be in full agreement as long as they were both committed to working for the Cambodian people and not for individuals.

Unified democratic force

Ke Sovannaroth, acting SRP secretary general, told the Post Wednesday that democrats must join together for the benefit of the Cambodian people.

 "But the timing and the details of the merger must be right. We do not want people to be disappointed by a coalition that is established by uncertain democrats. We need a unified democratic force," she said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Anti-corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng said the ruling Cambodian People's Party would welcome the new coalition.

"It is good for opposition groups to have a one-party coalition. They are weak invidivually, so a united party is better for them. We are not concerned by it," he said.

 "They were so proud before the [July] election but when they saw the results, they knew for themselves how weak they were. No one will try to stop them. They are free to unite," he said.   

Lawmakers from the newly formed HRP were silenced during the National Assembly's first session earlier this month for refusing to team themselves with either the ruling Cambodian People's Party or the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, despite knowing they would lose their right to speak.

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