Hun Sen Offers TV Station Carrot to CNRP

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday attempted to condense the post-election political deadlock down to a dispute over the CNRP’s request for a television channel, saying the ball was now back in the opposition party’s court.

Speaking at a center for the disabled in Kampot, Mr. Hun Sen said the offer for the TV channel was on the table and that the CNRP need only to register a company and obtain the license. But the CNRP’s chief whip said the TV station alone would not be enough for the opposition to end its National Assembly boycott and fill parliament’s 55 vacant seats.

“I asked [CNRP President Sam Rainsy] to create a company and I advised him that he would need to do business properly,” Mr. Hun Sen said. After creating a company, Mr. Hun Sen said he told Mr. Rainsy to simply send a letter of request for the TV license in order to see it granted.

“[Mr. Rainsy] promised that he would and I also asked [Information Minister Khieu] Kanharith if it was possible to provide a national television channel for him,” the prime minister said.

“We have allowed [the CNRP to create a television station] but [Mr. Rainsy] did not send the letter to me. Therefore, he has no intention of solving the political deadlock. If he wants to solve the problem, it is up to him.”

Mr. Hun Sen also said that he had agreed to make the National Election Committee (NEC), which the CNRP accuses of rigging July’s election, a constitutional body, as the opposition has demanded.

“I agree to put the National Election Committee in chapter 15 [of the Constitution] to add one more chapter and we will amend it,” he said.

In order for any change to be made to the Constitution, it must receive a two-thirds vote of approval in the National Assembly, meaning the CNRP would have to end its boycott.

The CNRP has also been calling for a complete overhaul of the NEC’s leadership, which is currently stacked with officials loyal to the ruling party.

Contacted Tuesday, Mr. Kanharith, the information minister, said that he had made available a digital channel belonging to state broadcaster TVK.

Mr. Kanharith said that while the new station would not be allowed to contain the party’s name, it would be permitted to broadcast opposition-friendly programming within the “legal framework.”

“You know well that in Cambodia censorship is unconstitutional,” Mr. Kanharith said via Facebook.

Both Mr. Kanharith and Mr. Hun Sen said that the offer for the TV license had been on the table for more than a month.

Mr. Rainsy could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Son Chhay, the CNRP’s whip, said that the opposition’s priorities could not be boiled down to the TV license, which has been sought to bring some balance to the country’s CPP-dominated broadcast media.

“We will not do it. We will not agree to the television station now —not until we settle all the political issues. It is part of a package,” Mr. Chhay said, adding that electoral reform remained key to the opposition taking their seats in the assembly.

“A TV station under the current regulations is meaningless—the government wants us to register under a private company but we will be operating under bad regulations and the government can take back the license at any time,” Mr. Chhay said.

Also in his address Tuesday, the prime minister took aim at false information that had spread over the weekend, which placed him in serious condition after supposedly suffering a stroke and being sent to Singapore.

Without naming Mr. Rainsy, Mr. Hun Sen said that the CNRP president had “incited” people by saying the prime minister had fallen ill.

“I took the Cambodia Daily on [Monday] and saw that the president of a party said that he had received information [that I had a stroke],” Mr. Hun Sen said.

He then quashed any notion Mr. Rainsy may have had about succeeding as prime minister, suggesting that the event of his death could lead to a domestic power struggle.

“If I really had a stroke, you should pack your bags and prepare to run,” he said. “I say that honestly because there is only one person who can command the armed forces and they don’t wish for Hun Sen to die.”

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