Opposition Supporters Insist on No Compromise With CPP

With the opposition CNRP and CPP having conducted two days of talks aimed at ending the stalemate over July’s disputed national election, opposition supporters in Phnom Penh on Wednesday insisted they would accept nothing short of total acquiescence from the ruling party to the CNRP’s demands.

The National Assembly is due to be convened by King Norodom Sihamoni on Monday, and CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha told the crowd at the close of the party’s three-day demonstration in Freedom Park on Tuesday they would hold further demonstrations if they do not secure agreements in further talks.

Yim Sovann, the party’s spokesman, also said Tuesday the CNRP has “five days to make the decision” whether to follow through with its threats to boycott the opening of the assembly or reach an agreement with the CPP and sit.

But in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Wednesday, 46-year-old taxi driver Suon Samnang said there was nothing to gain from a compromise and that mass demonstrations should simply continue “until they agree, and then we can stop.”

“If they don’t follow the people’s goals, we are going to be dismayed and the people will go to Sam Rainsy looking for answers,” Mr. Samnang said, adding that an agreement that put CNRP leaders in comfortable positions without securing the party’s promises to voters could be the death of the opposition.

“If he accepts, for example, to be the president of the National Assembly instead of doing things for the people, people will turn on him for his political agenda,” he said. “We would call him ‘Mr. Eats the Rice and Destroys the Pot.’”

The CNRP has repeatedly called for an independent investigation into alleged electoral irregularities, and on Sunday released new demands including reforms to the National Electoral Committee, a new national voter list and a television station.

Sieng Sokhim, a 43-year-old tuk-tuk driver, agreed that any compromise with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party would be of little value, and that demonstrations should continue indefinitely until the CPP accedes to an investigation of the election results.

“If there is no solution regarding the results, we should definitely keep protesting. I’m not scared to do demonstrations—even if violence happens—until we secure the seven points,” he said, referring to the CNRP’s seven central election promises, which include a minimum wage of $150 per month, a monthly pension for people over 65 and better access to education.

Bun Na, a 53-year-old spare parts dealer, went beyond the CNRP’s demands to the CPP and said that any deal short of a change in prime minister would not be accepted by the party’s supporters.

“It is important that we do [demonstrations] until Hun Sen steps down,” Mr. Na said. “Then we will be relieved. We should keep protesting until we get what we want.”

Em Phalla, 37, said he was increasingly concerned that the CNRP could agree to take positions instead of securing their demands for electoral reform and an investigation into the polls.

“I am worried they will come to a power-sharing deal and stop seeking what the people want,” he said.

Analysts have previously said the ruling party would be unlikely to set up a committee to investigate the election—potentially undermining its legitimacy—and that the CNRP will inevitably have to negotiate a separate compromise on reforms with the CPP.

Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, said that it remained to be seen if Mr. Rainsy will stand by the popular promises he made during the election campaign.

“Whether he can stand up and look for something more practical concerns me. Maybe other members of the party can push him toward that,” he said.

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