Lawmaker Welcomes Cheam Channy’s Cut Term

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay on Thursday evening welcomed the news that party member Che­am Channy’s prison sentence will be slashed from seven to three years, meaning he could be re­leased in 2008.

The news came one day after Son Chhay said the op­position was prepared to compromise with Hun Sen to try and se­cure Cheam Channy’s release.

But Son Chhay—who said Wed­nes­day that the opposition was willing to cease its calls for international pres­sure against the government and tone down its opposition to Hun Sen’s leadership—said any such com­promise remains a long way off.

“At least some action has been taken by the prime minister. It’s en­couraging, but why [cut] four years?” Son Chhay said. “Why not just let him go?”

“It will take a few more years be­fore Cambodian factions learn to trust each other and use compromise and dialogue,” he added.

Son Chhay claimed the opposition was informed by a source in Hun Sen’s cabinet about six days ago that if Son Chhay made a conci­liatory public statement and Cheam Channy’s wife and lawyer form­ally requested his release, Hun Sen would be more likely to do so.

“We worked very hard to get everything together” in the days that followed, Son Chhay said.

However, at 6:30 am on Wednes­day, Cambodian Television Net­work newsreader Soy Sopheap ap­peared on CTN news and said he had received information from Hun Sen’s cabinet that the deal was off.

“He’s some kind of passive spokes­man for the prime minister,” Son Chhay said of Soy Sopheap, not­ing that he also helped orchestrate a telephone conversation be­tween Hun Sen and Cambodian Cen­­ter for Human Rights President Kem Sokha last month.

Soy Sopheap declined to discuss Son Chhay’s claims, while Infor­ma­tion Minister Khieu Kanharith would not say whether Soy Sop­heap is an unofficial government spokes­­man.

Khieu Kanharith also accused Son Chhay of not having permission from opposition leader Sam Rain­sy or acting party president Kong Korm to make his offer. Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections, said Son Chhay’s initial offer of com­pro­mise could have been a good thing.

“The personal attacks [between poli­ticians] should be reduced,” he said.

      (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)      




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