Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday shut the door on the possibility of negotiations between the two major political parties, saying there could be no talks over “prisoners” and any discussions would undermine the criminal proceedings in the courts.
Responding to a request for negotiations by the Cambodia National Rescue Party last month, Hun Sen, speaking to Fresh News, dismissed the possibility and instead suggested that the opposition ask the National Assembly to convene and solve their problems.
“There can be no negotiations because if there is a negotiation it could exert influence over the process of the court, which is currently taking action on certain cases,” he said. “If there are any negotiations, the CPP will not discuss the competence of the court and the cases of prisoners.”
The opposition, which made an informal request to National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long to set up working groups to resume the so-called culture of dialogue, yesterday sent the Cambodian People’s Party an agenda for proposed negotiation points, including the return of self-exiled leader Sam Rainsy.
The CNRP has faced a flurry of cases against its lawmakers, including Rainsy, who fled the country last November after a warrant was issued for his arrest over a seven-year-old defamation case; Sokha, who is facing court summonses relating to his alleged sex scandal; and Um Sam An and Hong Sok Hour, who have been jailed over Facebook posts relating to border issues with Vietnam.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said that it was impossible that negotiations would include the return of Rainsy or discussion related to politicians who were facing criminal proceedings. “There are no negotiations between the both parties, not even with the working groups of the parties,” Eysan said.
With regards to Sam An and Sok Hour, Eysan said there could be no leniency, given that they had alleged that the CPP was a traitor in the handling of border issues with Vietnam. “That’s why we don’t want to meet because there is nothing to say,” he said.
In light of Hun Sen’s statement on Saturday, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said despite the premier’s stance his party would continue to push for the “culture of dialogue”, given that it was the best way to find a solution to the current stalemate.
He added the party would stick to a stance of nonviolence, and also expected King Norodom Sihamoni and the international community to intervene in the political deadlock.
“If [we] return to parliament, the parliament should fulfil its role completely and not be under political influence,” Chhay Eang said, referring to Hun Sen’s suggestion to go to the National Assembly for a solution.
Political analyst Chea Vannath said it was in both parties’ best interests to initiate talks, and that despite the hard stance taken by both sides, they should think of the country’s progress.
“Millions of voters want to see both parties working productively,” she said. “The nation’s benefit should be [put] over personal benefit.”
Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga