The Leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, Sam Rainsy, has said any negotiations with caretaker prime minister Hun Sen are impossible.
He labelled the president of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – who won a projected landslide in the 2018 national elections – a “fake” that only international pressure could “change”.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said there could not be any negotiations with the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader after Rainsy had “destroyed the culture of dialogue”.
He dismissed pressure from the international community as “not unusual” and threats that were “an infringement of Cambodian democracy”.
In radio interviews over the weekend, Rainsy told Voice of America that: “I’ve tried many times [to negotiate with Hun Sen]. I’ve tried very hard, many times.
“Now I have seen very clearly that Hun Sen can’t be changed. A gentle dialogue cannot change him. The international community must be hard on him, otherwise he won’t change.”
Rainsy continued his attack in an interview with Radio Free Asia, saying: “Hun Sen is a fake person. Look at him. Everything he does is fake. There’s no point in negotiating with a fake person.
“When we see proof that he has changed, when the Cambodian people and the international community see that Hun Sen has changed, then we can negotiate with him.”
Rainsy also took issue with the dissolution of the CNRP in November, calling it Hun Sen’s biggest blunder.
“Hun Sen has made double blunders – the first was the dissolution of the CNRP, and the second was holding the fake elections. Those are his biggest blunders,” he claimed, without elaborating.
Eysan hit back by saying that rather than it being Hun Sen who could not be negotiated with, it was Rainsy and the CNRP leadership who had made any reconciliation talks impossible after they had “destroyed the culture of dialogue”.
“There will be no political dialogue because the CNRP has destroyed the culture of dialogue, leading to an end to negotiations. With or without conditions, there will be no dialogue.
“We respect the will of the Cambodian people. If we hold elections, see the results and then have dialogue [with an outlawed party] then what were the elections for?”
Eysan continued that talk of international pressure was an old tactic and one that had been used again and again to no avail.
“Some say foreign pressure has been growing stronger and stronger, but I can say it’s not strong. [The international community] kept it strong to hinder the elections.
“But the elections have been held. They couldn’t prevent [the elections]. Neither foreigners nor outlawed rebels could hinder it,” Eysan said.
In response to talk of a potential suspension of Cambodia’s access to the European Union’s (EU) Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme, Eysan said that such threats had been repeatedly made but never carried out.
Such drastic action, Eysan said, was unlikely as the EU had invited Hun Sen to attend a meeting later this year. Hence, Cambodia’s suspension from the EBA scheme seemed unlikely.
He said it would need a consensus from all 28 EU member countries to be successful. “It’s just a threat – an infringement of democracy in Cambodia.
“This is not unusual. They have threatened [the Cambodian government] for a long time. Now they are still threatening, but democratic progress in Cambodia is still advancing,” Eysan said.