CNRP’s Kem Sokha Refutes Claim That the Party Is Divided

CNRP vice president Kem Sokha on Monday denied claims made by Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s cabinet chief that leaders of the opposition party were making conflicting demands of the ruling CPP.

The two parties have been locked in a political stalemate since July’s election, with the CNRP alleging massive electoral fraud and re­fusing to take their seats in parliament after negotiations broke down.

In a statement released Saturday, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, Mr. Kheng’s cabinet chief, said that CNRP president Sam Rainsy had called Mr. Kheng to say he no longer wanted the presidency of the National As­sembly, but that Mr. Sokha and CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann still profess to want to leadership position.

“We’ve never said anything about what positions [in the Na­tional Assembly] we want, we al­ways said we are merely looking for justice related to irregularities in the national election,” Mr. Sokha told reporters after a Buddhist ceremony at the CNRP’s Tuol Kok headquarters to honor the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who died one year ago today.

During an event last week to congratulate security forces for their handling of the election period and subsequent protests by the CNRP, Mr. Kheng said the CPP had agreed to give the CNRP four committee chairmanships and the vice presidency of the National Assembly, an offer the opposition has repeatedly rejected.

The CNRP would need six committee chairmanships to balance the power of the CPP in the National Assembly Permanent Committee, which sets the legislative body’s agenda and is comprised of the National Assembly president, two deputy presidents and nine committee members.

“I never received proof [of Lt. Gen. Sopheak’s claims] and we never had any official meetings [with the CPP about Permanent Committee positions],” Mr. Sokha said.

Mr. Sokha said Mr. Kheng and Lt. Gen. Sopheak were merely at­tempting to make the CNRP appear internally divided.

“There were times in the past when they [the CPP] had the ability to use our [conflicting] policies to break us, but they failed, and now they cannot break the Cambodia National Rescue Party,” Mr. Sokha said.

Mr. Rainsy is currently overseas attempting to lobby the international community to withdraw support from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Monday the CNRP merely wants a “balance of power” in the National Assembly.

“We do not want to talk about the [Standing Committee] positions, but we would like to talk about the balance of power to reform concretely some national in­stitutions,” adding that during the second day of negotiations between the CNRP and CPP on September 17, the ruling party refused the opposition any seats on the Permanent Committee, contradicting Mr. Kheng’s statements last week.

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