Parties Gear Up for Second Round of Talks

Cambodia’s major political parties head into their second working session today, seemingly far apart in their objectives.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party say they want to discuss the controversial seat-allocation formula, amnesties for resistance generals such as Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal, and a halt to the threats against such opposition figures as Kem Sokha.

The CPP, meanwhile, is tight-lipped about its agenda, but is indicating that it’s time to move on to the issues of the National Assembly and the formation of the coalition government.

Delegates said after last week’s initial meeting in Phnom Penh that the groups would discuss today how top Assembly posts and committee chairmen positions would be allocated.

The parties did agree on one thing: They say they’re glad that King Norodom Siha­nouk has de­cided to stay in Cambodia at least a while longer.

The 75-year-old monarch had been scheduled to leave for Bei­jing for medical treatment, which would have left Cambodia without a head of state. But senior government officials urged him to stay in the country. King Siha­nouk is scheduled to fly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh this morning, but was not expected to participate in the working groups.

“We want the amnesties and a lifting of the political repression,” Tol Lah, Funcinpec secretary-

ge­n­eral, said Sunday, “because if we’re talking about national reconciliation…it’s a two-way street, not a one-way street.”  The opposition has argued that government actions such as the travel ban and threats against opposition figures amount to coercion.

The government has said that certain opposition figures are le­gitimately sought for ques­­tioning in connection with in­cite­ment of racial hatred and da­m­age to state property during recent protests.

The CPP, which has been anxious to move beyond election-related issues, was reluctant to talk about its agenda.

“I don’t want to make any comments for fear that it would affect the spirit of the meeting,” Sok An, co-minister of the Council of Min­is­ters, said Sunday. “I cannot say what I hope the meeting will ac­com­plish. It depends on the other two sides. If they respect the spirit of the [summit] in Siem Reap, there will be progress.”

But he did say that he believes the seat-allocation formula and other election issues should be discussed in the National Assem­bly, which could convene as early as Wednesday. The CPP earlier agreed to a reconciliation of the used and unused ballots.

Oum Sarith, an adviser to CPP Pre­sident Chea Sim, also said that he thinks it is up to the opposition to adopt a positive stance to form a “constructive coalition.”


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