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Rainsy calls for new sit-down

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha speak during a press conference in Phnom Penh
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha speak during a press conference in Phnom Penh on Saturday. Heng Chivoan

Rainsy calls for new sit-down

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called for renewed talks between the opposition and the ruling party on Saturday, going on to say that the discussions should include not only the two parties but civil society representatives as well.

Speaking to reporters at Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters, Rainsy suggested negotiations be set for the first three days of January, and said a wide range of issues would be up for discussion – not just the current political stalemate.

“We want to have a big meeting to talk, to solve the nation’s problems. Now we have seen that at the end of this year, the nation’s problems are increasingly serious. It is not only political deadlock, but it is also about the problem of salary demands by workers.

“We should meet and talk about the problems that the country is facing.

“We should bring some new ideas; if we still have old ideas, it is maybe not progressive,” he added.

When reached yesterday, Rainsy declined to outline his party’s demands going into the negotiations, but said that the talks should take the form of “a kind of congress, a people’s congress”.

“They should include any topics of public concern. Cambodia is in turmoil now, so we should discuss the workers’ demands for a wage increase. We should discuss land-grabbing, the issue of deforestation,” he said. “All the people who have been voiceless should be given a voice.”

Focusing solely on joining the National Assembly, he said, “would be premature, putting the cart before the ox”.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, however, said the party would likely be hewing closely to its current calls for electoral reform and a new election.

Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who has represented the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in past negotiations, said the CPP welcomed talks and blamed the stalling of previous rounds on a lack of will on the opposition’s part.

“Since last time, the [CPP] has always wanted to have negotiations – anywhere, anytime, at any level,” Sokha said, while declining to comment on the possible participation of civil society.

Political analyst Chea Vannath said yesterday that the CPP agreeing to negotiations was a promising sign, even if it didn’t ultimately agree to call a new election, and that the opposition may find itself in a more advantageous position this time around.

“I think [they] might not have any difficulty to find common ground because of the reform policy of the government,” Vannath said. “[The parties] are going the same direction, so it can be negotiated.”

What’s more, she said, the ongoing demonstrations that have taken root in Freedom Park may pay off. “I think the CPP is under great pressure to solve the problem, especially because this affects foreign investment. This is a political problem, so I think the CNRP is in a better position for negotiations.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL

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