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Sar Kheng’s trip to France ‘purely personal’

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Interior minister Sar Kheng at the ministry in February. Hong Menea

Sar Kheng’s trip to France ‘purely personal’

The Ministry of Interior has denied a report from Voice of Democracy (VOD) radio which quoted a former opposition politician as claiming that minister Sar Kheng was planning to meet informally with officials of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) during his private 14-day trip to France.

Sar Kheng left Cambodia for France on August 22 and is expected to return on September 5. His ministry said he would not be conducting any official business while away as the purpose for the trip –undertaken with the permission of Prime Minister Hun Sen – was solely to attend to personal matters.

However, VOD published an article on August 23 with the headline “Former opposition officials say they plan to meet informally with Sar Kheng in France”.

VOD quoted former CNRP lawmaker Men Sothavarin, who said he had already informed former CNRP president Sam Rainsy about Sar Kheng’s trip, though Rainsy was currently in the US.

“However, [Sothavarin] said … there might be an informal meeting between former opposition officials and Sar Kheng,” VOD said.

“Yes, there may be [this meeting] because we are Khmer and Khmer. On the part of the CNRP, especially president Sam Rainsy, he wants no revenge at all. He cares about his people,” Sothavarin was quoted as saying.

Interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak immediately rejected the report on August 23 with assurances that Sar Kheng travelled to France for personal reasons and has no agenda or plans there beyond that.

“That is a lie. Samdech Krala Hom [Sar Kheng] went to France without any purposes beyond attending to his personal affairs only,” Sopheak told The Post on August 24.

Democratic Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said while Sar Kheng’s trip was open to interpretation, it would be normal for politicians from different parties to meet and discuss how to resolve conflicts between them.

“Our Constitution stipulates that we adhere to a multiparty liberal democratic system and it is not only common – but almost required – that politicians sometimes meet privately or informally as part of the process in democratic politics,” he said.

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