Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reaffirmed that he would not negotiate with former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy or any politicians linked to the party because it has been dissolved.
Mr Rainsy on Monday called on Mr Hun Sen to return to the culture of dialogue fostered between the CNRP and the ruling CPP in 2014, when the two sides reached an agreement to end the opposition’s boycott of parliament following the 2013 national election.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that no negotiations would ever take place and no pardons would be sought for former CNRP members currently behind bars.
“I want to clarify two points: first, no talks will ever take place with a group of traitors,” he said. “Second, no pardon or reduction of sentences will be sought for a group of traitors.”
The premier added that Mr Rainsy insulted his wife, Bun Rany, and his eldest son Hun Manet, when he incited people to burn his effigies during protests.
“That is not akin to a culture of dialogue,” he said. “You have to understand this issue clearly. You lost the opportunity.”
“You’ve burned my effigies and then you want to talk with me,” he added.
Mr Rainsy has lived in self-imposed exile since 2015 after being hit with slew of court cases, including by Mr Hun Sen who accused him of defamation.
Mr Rainsy stepped down as leader of the CNRP in February 2017 because of his criminal history.
Afterwards, Kem Sokha took over as party leader, but he has since been jailed on treason charges for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government through a colour revolution.
On November 16, the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and barred 118 senior members from politics for five years.
“I made my effort to create a culture of dialogue, but they showed no mercy on me, so I will not show mercy either,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker, said that despite Mr Hun Sen’s staunch refusal to negotiate, he believed that negotiations were inevitable.
“There is no other choice except coming to the table for the process of democracy,” Mr Chanrath said. “It is very important that the international community sees an ease of tension in the country and that Cambodia’s reputation in the international arena be restored.”
Since the dissolution of the CNRP in November, Western countries have threatened to cut off electoral aid and assistance to the government, but allies such as China, Japan, South Korea and Russia continue to support the electoral process in Cambodia.
Late last year, the United States and European Union suspended funding for the election and in December, the US imposed visa restrictions on government officials deemed to have been undermining democracy.
In February, the EU threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions after the CPP announced it had won every seat in the Senate election.
Korn Savang, a coordinator with election watchdog Comfrel, said the government should return to a culture of dialogue for the sake of democracy in the country.
“I am optimistic there will be a solution between Khmers and Khmers,” he said. “It is best for national interest.”