CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha used a radio interview on Wednesday night to clarify his stance on the talks last week between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP President Sam Rainsy to end the post-election deadlock, in which a date for a new election was apparently the only sticking point.
Following the talks, Mr. Rainsy said on April 9 that he made “tentative” plans with Mr. Hun Sen to meet before King Norodom Sihamoni on April 11 to sign a deal ending the CNRP’s boycott of the National Assembly, if a date could be agreed upon.
The next day, Mr. Hun Sen claimed Mr. Rainsy had in fact agreed to bring the election forward from July 2018 to February 2018, but said that he feared Mr. Sokha’s intransigence could prevent the deal. In an ensuing press conference, Mr. Rainsy denied Mr. Hun Sen’s claim and also stressed his personal unity with Mr. Sokha.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia on Wednesday night in Washington—a stop on his 20-day U.S. tour—Mr. Sokha said that the phone conversation between Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen last week had been the result of weeks of talks between the CPP and CNRP.
Mr. Sokha said that Mr. Hun Sen had seemed to agree with the CNRP’s demands in his call with Mr. Rainsy. However, a draft agreement later produced did not reflect the call’s contents, he said.
“After we had a discussion, we saw that the things that the CPP wanted in the draft political agreement would be a loss for the national interest and the interests of the people. The people want the election to be held soon, not in 2018,” he said.
“And the CNRP’s stance is decided: The reelection should be held in early 2016 at the latest…in order to use the half-mandate for registration and the voter list. So Sam Rainsy did not agree with Hun Sen for [an election] in 2018,” he said.
At a press conference the day following the call, Mr. Rainsy, who is now in Europe, had also stressed that he had not agreed with the prime minister on a February 2018 election. But Mr. Rainsy also said that an agreement on a date with Mr. Hun Sen could be imminent and indicated that a vote as late as July 2017 could be accepted.
Mr. Sokha said last week’s confusion was the result of a campaign of manipulation carried out by Mr. Hun Sen to make the opposition appear divided.
“Neither Mr. Sam Rainsy nor I can act or decide on something alone—we both make decisions together, forever,” the deputy opposition leader said.
“Some people might be confused, because the CPP uses tricks—uses the same tricks, again and again—aimed to break us apart,” he said.
“They want to split us, so they’ve used what was talked about to interpret it [in a different way] to make people confused that we have different opinions.”
Mr. Hun Sen on April 10 threatened to release a full recording of his 44-minute conversation with Mr. Rainsy if the CNRP sought to dispute its substance.
Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s chief of public affairs, said Thursday that Mr. Rainsy’s claim last week that the deal was “80 percent” complete with the prime minister was consistent with Mr. Sokha’s comments.
“Even if we are that close, the 20 percent is still a lot,” she said. “The devil is in the details and the big question is whether they will go into the details. That will be the biggest hurdle we have to come through and that’s where we are still far apart.”
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)