Political Rivals Meeting to Cool Tension
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The vice presidents of the two largest political parties will meet today at the National Assembly, Sok Ey San, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said yesterday.
Mr. Ey San declined to reveal specific details of the agenda of the meeting between CPP vice president Sar Kheng and Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
However, the meeting follows months of escalating tension between the two parties, which included sparring over the demarcation of the border with Vietnam, allegations that the CPP is allowing Vietnam to encroach on Cambodian territory, and the imprisonment of activists from the opposition CNRP for “insurrection.”
Mr. Ey San said that tension between the two parties is on the agenda, but stressed that the CPP would maintain its position that it could not interfere in the judicial system to release the jailed activists.
The meeting will take place at 5pm, he added.
Mr. Sokha Called for Meeting
Mr. Sokha called for the meeting following the jailing of 11 CNRP activists last month on “insurrection” charges related to a protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Part in July last year, during which 39 security personnel were severely beaten. Three of the activists received 20-year sentences.
Ou Chanrith, a spokesman for the CNRP, said the meeting would focus on general topics, including proposals to reform ministries and government institutions.
When asked if the CNRP would raise the issue of the jailed activists, Mr. Chanrith was cautious. “If we have the chance, we will discuss the CNRP arrests with our partner,” he said, referring to the CPP. “We will discuss how to end political tension in Cambodia,” he added.
The CNRP continues to call for the release of the activists and has asked that no more be arrested.
It is basing its requests on a political accord between the two parties signed last year. The accord ended a yearlong boycott of the National Assembly by the CNRP and ushered in what has been called a new “culture of dialogue.”
Mr. Ey San said the arrests and jailing of CNRP activists would not be on the agenda of today’s meeting. To do so would be to violate the independence of the judiciary, he said.
“The July  accord and the culture of dialogue cannot be used to resolve criminal cases,” he added.
Political analyst Ou Virak said that the meeting could possibly defuse political tension.
Mr. Virak said one solution for the jailed activists could be an investigation into the facts related to the case.
He said it was important to bring an end to the tension between the two parties so that they could work on the social issues facing the people.
Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for rights group Licadho, said today’s meeting was a positive sign and that it could help reduce the tension between the two parties.
Mr. Sam Ath praised the culture of dialogue that emerged from last year’s accord, agreed upon by Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP president Sam Rainsy.
He said every issue can be solved unless talks are just for show.
Talks between the two parties in the past have resulted in the release of jailed opposition activists, he said.
Tomorrow’s meeting could help reduce tension, following strong reactions from the government to CNRP activities. He said the CPP often reacts strongly before it sits down to negotiate.
Mr. Sam Ath said he hoped the dispute over demarcating the border with Vietnam was on the agenda tomorrow, saying this was at the root of the tension between the two parties.
Mr. Virak said the border issue could be moving in the right direction now that the Royal Academy had formed a research team to study the highly politicized issue.
You already reacted to this news article