Hun Sen Declares Fragile Political ‘Cease-Fire’ With CNRP

Prime Minister Hun Sen, citing a de-escalation in Cambodia’s tense political climate, on Thursday declared a fragile “cease-fire” between the government and the opposition CNRP.

The pronouncement came on the heels of his threats on Monday to “eliminate” any adversaries who dared to demonstrate, a reaction to the CNRP’s vow to hold mass protests after deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha received a five-month jail sentence on charges widely thought to be politically motivated.

Hun Sen gestures as he arrives for a family photo with other leaders during the Asia-Europe Meeting summit in Mongolia in July. (Reuters)
Hun Sen gestures as he arrives for a family photo with other leaders during the Asia-Europe Meeting summit in Mongolia in July. (Reuters)

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen said the situation had cooled down.

“I should not say much because there is a cease-fire, as it has been a bit quieter since Monday,” he said. “On Monday, there was fire, then the fire ceased on Tuesday as there was no exchange of fire.”

Despite the tentative “ceasefire,” Mr. Hun Sen acknowledged that the rhetorical peace was a fragile one.

“I’m waiting to see who will be the first to start an attack during the Pchum Ben festival because I usually want to see a calm situation,” he said.

“I do not want to see responses to each other, so let’s wait to see if this cease-fire remains.”

However, Mr. Sokha’s arrest is only a matter of time, according to Interior Ministry officials. And senior CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said on Thursday that the opposition was still planning mass protests in response to Mr. Sokha’s conviction, though no concrete plans were in place.

“As we have confirmed many times, that mass demonstration will be the last resort,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. “So far, an advocacy committee created by the party is studying a plan…because we need to have a clear plan regarding the location and date for doing it.”

In his speech on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen also said that he would be “a dog” if he sat down for talks with the opposition amid the current political turmoil, saying “the only place to talk is the National Assembly.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, currently in self-imposed exile in Paris to avoid prison, said on Wednesday that the CNRP would require a “comprehensive solution” before the party ended its boycott and made a full return to parliament.

“Going back to the National Assembly under the present circumstances would mean that the political situation has returned to normal, which is far from being the case,” Mr. Rainsy said.

Mr. Chhay Eang reiterated on Thursday that any end to the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly was conditional upon a solution that would give the CNRP confidence that it was not under attack.

“What can make us go and work at the parliament is a political solution that could make us feel warm and that we can rely on first,” he said.

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