Sixteen of the 20 parties that took part in the July 29 national election were represented on Tuesday at the inaugural meeting of the “Consultation Forum” – a committee formed by prime minister-designate Hun Sen as a step towards a “culture of dialogue”.
It was additionally announced that the presidents of each party would become advisers to the government.
Senior members of the 16 parties assembled at the capital’s Peace Palace on Tuesday to meet with the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), that swept all 125 seats in the National Assembly, marking the only time in modern Cambodia’s history that a single party has controlled parliament.
Four parties – the Grassroots Democratic Party, the League for Democracy Party, the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party and the Our Motherland Party – decided not to attend the session.
Speaking at the opening of the forum, Hun Sen, who is also CPP president, said the 20 parties that participated in the election had a “willingness to contribute to the development of the country”.
“I invite all political parties here not to endorse the policies of the CPP . . . Don’t simply look forward – you can also look back to see what the problems are, even with recent policies regarding social issues,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Tuesday that the role of the forum was to provide opinion on government policies, provide feedback on draft laws and advise the prime minister on inaction or violations by government officials.
It was said the participants would meet once a month, presided by the council chairman, and with the prime minister once every six months.
A royal decree is to legitimise the committee, which can only be terminated by a government mandate.
Chhim Phal Vorun, a personal adviser to Hun Sen, told reporters that each party that was represented attended the meeting voluntarily, and would send two delegates to the talks. They will receive a salary from the national budget.
He said the parties that chose not to attend the inaugural meeting still had a chance to be a part of the committee.
“The parties’ participation is based on a voluntary principle. They are not forced to attend. If any party followed their internal policies and decided to not participate, we will have no objections. However, they have to do it voluntarily.
“Regarding [absent] parties, they can still participate with the prime minister’s approval,” he said.
Among the 16 parties that attended the forum on Tuesday was the Khmer Republican Party led by Lon Rith, the son of the Kingdom’s 1970s US-backed leader Lon Nol.
However, Rith did not confirm his party’s stance on the Consultation Forum.
Vorun said he could not provide a specific date when the royal decree establishing the group would be issued.
Toasting champagne with Hun Sen at around 2pm, many party leaders expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the forum.
Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros told The Post that he strongly supported the opportunity to take part in the development of the country.
“We want the country to prosper. We used our right as politicians to criticise, but they did not listen. Now the Prime Minister gives us the right to report to him when we see shortcomings.
“I think it is an opportunity because I organised a political party. Ultimately I want to contribute to the development of Cambodia, especially to eliminate oppression, corruption, political discrimination, and eliminate the tycoons grabbing land from innocent people,” Sros said.
Sros’ sentiments were echoed by Khmer Will Party leader Kong Monika, and Noun Sokhavy from the New Light Party. Sokhavy said he is willing to walk away from the group if his will isn’t respected.
“The government provided us with the privilege to watch over any officer. We will [report] to the government to act in accordance with the law. We all follow the laws, so all of us will be okay.
“There is no problem. I think during this mandate, people will have more justice because 16 political parties will reflect that justice for all the people in the country,” Sokhavy said.
Monika added: “It is a new opportunity for all political parties that participated in the elections to reflect the will of the people, especially their supporters.”
Analysts have speculated how much sway the Consultation Forum will hold in policy decisions. The move to create the committee comes amid criticisms of the national polls by Western leaders and praise from Asian ones.