PM, Rainsy Meet Behind Closed Doors 

Prime Minister Hun Sen met with opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Sunday morning in a closed-door meeting meant to encourage dialogue and unity between their two parties, Sam Rainsy said.

The landmark one-on-one meeting between the one-time bitter rivals stretched on for more than three hours at the prime minister’s of­ficial residence near Indepen­dence Monument.

“We have discussed national is­sues. We want to create a new culture, which is the culture of dialogue, and to abandon attacking each other, in order to have a united stance to protect national interests,” Sam Rainsy said by telephone after the secretive meeting.

During the conference, the two vowed to lead the country democratically, Sam Rainsy said.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen ap­pealed to me to use wisdom to help build the country,” he said.

The opposition leader, who re­turned to Cambodia on Friday following a year in self-exile, denied that they had discussed the possibility of a tripartite coalition government in advance of the 2008 general elections.

State-run TVK announced the meet­ing in a Sunday broadcast, which quoted government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith as saying that it was “not the last meeting” between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy.

“They have exchanged ideas, the same as a family,” Khieu Kan­ha­rith said later by telephone, but he declined to give further details of the discussions.

While Sam Rainsy and others said the meeting was a step toward im­proved dialogue between the two leaders, some warned that the cozy private meeting could bode poorly for a healthy opposition.

Mam Sonando, owner of the in­de­pendent Beehive radio station, warn­ed that an opposition party closely affiliated with the government could not fulfill its role as a watch­dog.

“If the opposition party cooperates with the government, it is just like a second Funcinpec party. [Then,] there must be another op­po­­­sition party established, and people will support it,” he said.

But opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said that the Sam Rain­sy Party had benefited from the discussion, in which the party leaders put old rivalries behind them.

“The meeting helped to end the dis­putes,” Eng Chhay Eang said.

“This is a new culture for Cambodia, to have the head of the gov­ernment talk to the opposition party. When Khmers learn to talk to Khmers, it is good for the country,” he said.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha said that, while such a meeting is a positive sign for the nation, the results of the talks must be made public.

“I think people will be suspicious about it,” he said.



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