One year since forming Cambodia’s much-negotiated coalition government, leaders from the once embattled CPP and Funcinpec parties on Tuesday commemorated their cooperation.
“This is a great event in Khmer history to show that we love and understand each other…after a historical split, civil war and unspeakable loss,” said CPP President Chea Sim.
Key members from each party —excluding Prime Minister Hun Sen, who event organizers said was ill—gathered for a champagne toast followed by a luncheon at Hotel Le Royal.
The coalition agreement, brokered by King Norodom Sihanouk, was signed by both parties on Nov 23 last year.
The agreement, assuring CPP the prime minister’s post and several key government positions, followed three months of stalemate. It also granted royal amnesties to five men convicted of plotting against then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen—a majority of them Funcinpec operatives.
The coalition was seen as a breakthrough after factional fighting between the two parties in July 1997 ousted then co-prime minister and Funcinpec head Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
In his prepared speech, Chea Sim tried to dispel any suspicion the two parties might still have tension between them.
“The two parties continue to share the power at all levels—province, municipality, district and commune—in order to practice the meaning of agreement,” he said during his speech.
While he did not directly mention opposition Sam Rainsy Party, which is not a part of the coalition, Chea Sim alluded to “some politicians…who try to destroy this cooperation.”
“Their motives are not effective,” he said. “Because our two parties already have the experience and the real responsibility to run this country.”
A speech by Prince Ranariddh, who now heads the National Assembly, was a bit less political and instead thanked his father the King for continued peace. The Prince called the coalition “one great medicine to keep the people and the country in peace, prosperity and happiness.”
At the reception, members of both parties stood side-by-side, exchanging traditional greetings, handshakes and friendly comments. More than 20 of the highest-ranking officials from each party were invited to the luncheon, and most attended.
Despite the event’s cheery sentiments, however, one political analyst said Cambodia is ready to cast aside its fixation with party politics and move on to solving the nation’s real problems.
“What’s the point of having a coalition if the people still don’t benefit?” said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.
She hinted that melding the two parties into one bloc only decreases the criticism of the government for allowing corruption to continue. Chea Vannath also argued that the government should focus on solving problems that affect everyday people, such as education, health care and the economy.
“Of course we want political stability. And a coalition is one big step. But it is only that, a step. The key is not to be stagnant in that step.”