Prime Minister Hun Sen and deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha are today set to come face to face for the first time since Sokha went into effective hiding to avoid arrest six months ago – a period during which the premier threatened to jail him for life.
Officials from both the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party confirmed yesterday that Hun Sen and Sokha – who has only left CNRP headquarters once since May 26 – will attend the National Assembly to vote on next year’s budget.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony of National Road 76 in Ratanakkiri province, Hun Sen himself said that he would attend the assembly meeting in the morning before flying to Siem Reap for a meeting with the prime ministers of Vietnam and Laos.
“Whether the National Assembly session is finished or not, I will have to leave for Siem Reap,” Hun Sen told the audience. “The other lawmakers will not be going anywhere; it will just be one lawmaker, Hun Sen, going to lead a meeting of the development triangle.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that he believed Hun Sen would greet CNRP lawmakers, including Sokha, as is customary, but that Sokha should not get his hopes up for any special negotiations with Hun Sen about the political climate.
“There will be normal talk, and they will greet each other, but there will be no talk about political issues,” Eysan said, before predicting Sokha’s requests.
“His request to meet is to release [CNRP] prisoners, but a political party cannot solve the issue of the prisoners.”
“We are waiting for the procedures of the court to be finished first,” the spokesman said.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith also confirmed that Sokha, who was in September sentenced to five months in jail but so far remains free pending appeals, would leave the safety of party headquarters for the second time since a May 26 arrest attempt.
He said both parties’ presence at the budget debate and vote was a step towards releasing the many opposition activists and officials presently in jail after a year of recriminations.
“I believe that this is a positive thing for seeking a resolution, because it is a good opportunity for the parties that have seats in the parliament to come and work together,” the CNRP spokesman said.