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Parties urged to resume talks

Armoured personnel carriers are seen in Phnom Penh’s Ponhea Leu district
Armoured personnel carriers are seen in Phnom Penh’s Ponhea Leu district. Election watchdog groups are encouraging cross-party dialogue to calm building post-election tensions. HENG CHIVOAN

Parties urged to resume talks

Citing a lack of public confidence in the official post-election irregularity resolution process – namely, the Constitutional Council’s opening of vote packages – a coalition of leading civil society groups yesterday appealed to the two main political parties to swiftly come back to the negotiating table.

The election watchdog groups – known together as “The Situation Room” – specifically called on top leaders to meet as soon as possible to discuss the establishment of a joint committee to investigate glaring election irregularities such as incorrectly sealed safety packages.

Although the hopes of forming such a proposed committee have been repeatedly dashed since initial negotiations broke down nearly a month ago, the two main parties yesterday confirmed they were moving towards a top-level meeting.

A promised “last resort” Cambodia National Rescue Party demonstration is due to take place Saturday.

“We want to encourage our politicians to maximise the [use of bilateral] meetings and dialogue to resolve the political deadlock, as it is the best way to avoid a social and economic crisis,” Thun Saray, president of rights group Adhoc, said yesterday.

“We insist again and again to the two main political parties … put the national benefit ahead of [your] personal benefit.”

Koul Panha, director at election watchdog Comfrel, said that the civil society groups were calling for specific leaders – Prime Minister Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha – to meet.

“So much depends on the top leaders. They can move quickly to [set out] a framework for what they want to see, and then lower leaders can plan and follow up,” he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said any meeting would have to happen soon.

“The meeting should take place before the 7th [the opposition’s date for a peaceful demonstration].… Secondly, an agreement needs to be reached within the period of 60 days" after the election, when the National Assembly is due to sit.

Senior officials from both parties confirmed yesterday that although the door remains open for cross-party dialogue, no date had been set for a meeting.

CNRP president Sam Rainsy said Chea Sim, the CPP's president, had confirmed that a high-level meeting between party leaders would occur.

“I have just received a second letter from Samdech Chea Sim.… [He] confirmed the high-level meeting and that the door is still open,” Rainsy said yesterday. “I cannot predict [the exact date] until the two sides have [the same] political will. [But] according to the letter, we understood each other.”

A senior CPP official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there had been no communication to set up a date for the meeting.

“The CPP is ready to meet if there is a request from the CNRP to set a time for dialogue to find a resolution,” the official said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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