Derailing efforts to end the nearly 10-month-long political deadlock, the CPP broke off talks aimed at forming a new coalition government with Funcinpec, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.
Khieu Kanharith said the CPP decided to suspend negotiations after pro-Funcinpec Ta Prohm Radio 90.5 FM broadcast programs critical of the CPP, breaking an agreement between Funcinpec’s President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen to hold a media truce.
“Ta Prohm Radio increased its attacks on the CPP, which is contrary to the agreement. Therefore, the CPP is suspending talks,” Khieu Kanharith said.
The two leaders had vowed in February that their parties would stop chastising each other in the media.
Khieu Kanharith did not specify the offending remarks allegedly broadcast by Ta Prohm. He said the CPP is demanding that Funcinpec remove Ta Prohm’s director, Noranarith Anandayath, and that Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen renew their agreement to stop broadcasting verbal attacks against each other.
“If Funcinpec doesn’t agree to these two conditions, there will be no talks and Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh will never meet again,” Khieu Kanharith said.
“Gentlemen and leaders must adhere to their promises and if they don’t keep their promises, it exposes their lack of ethics,” he added.
The two parties’ next meeting was scheduled for Wednesday.
By late Monday afternoon, Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh said he had not received official notice of the CPP’s decision nor their demands.
“So far I don’t have official information of that,” Prince Sirivudh said by telephone, adding that his party was preparing to resume talks on Wednesday as planned.
“I still hope to reach an agreement on some important issues,” he said.
Hours later, however, Prince Sirivudh issued a public statement addressed to Noranarith Anandayath, ordering him to halt all programs critical of the CPP to ensure that negotiations between the two parties continue smoothly.
“I would like you to suspend the programs that affect Samdech Prime Minister and the Cambodian People’s Party…from today on,” the statement read. “Please implement this effectively.”
Noranarith Anandayath could not be reached by phone Monday, but a man who said he was the station director’s assistant answered his calls.
The assistant, who identified himself only as Mak, said he was not aware of the controversy over the station’s broadcasts.
“Anandayath left his phone at Ta Prohm station and I don’t know when Anandayath will be back,” he said.
Officials from the two parties have been in talks to form a government for more than a month.
But they have failed to reach common ground on some major policy platform proposals, including Funcinpec’s demands to increase civil servants’ salaries and lower gasoline prices—demands backed by the Sam Rainsy Party.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said Monday the CPP’s latest move to halt negotiations was “ridiculous” and alleged the CPP was blaming Ta Prohm as a pretext for avoiding some of those key policy proposals.
“That radio station has been making these commentary talks for quite some time” without complaint, Son Chhay said.
He deplored the CPP’s demand for Noranarith Anandayath’s removal.
“They forgot they are living in a supposed democratic society,” Son Chhay said.
He added that talks between the two parties would not likely be halted indefinitely.
“If we remain strong, eventually everyone will go back to the talking table,” he said.
Ta Prohm came under CPP scrutiny in October, when Hun Sen warned the station to stop broadcasting programs critical of his speeches.
Two days later, Chuor Chetharith, a reporter and editor for Ta Prohm, was shot dead by unknown assailants in front of the radio station. At the time, Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party officials said his death was politically motivated. No arrests have been made.
Also Monday, Prince Sirivudh said Prince Ranariddh is scheduled to return to Phnom Penh this afternoon after a monthlong stay in France.
Prince Ranariddh left Cambodia in the last week of March, followed closely by opposition leader Sam Rainsy. Funcinpec officials did not not say why Prince Ranariddh left.
Opposition party officials said Monday that Sam Rainsy would return from France later this month.