Hun Sen Awaiting Rivals in Siem Reap
siem reap town – Second Prime Minister Hun Sen emerged from a meeting with King Norodom Sihanouk on Thursday and challenged the opposition to send top-level officials to weekend talks here.
Hun Sen indicated anything less would show disrespect to the monarch. But opposition politician Sam Rainsy rejected Hun Sen’s call, saying he would send technical experts to the Siem Reap talks.
Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh was reportedly in Bangkok for the weekend and could not be reached for comment.
Hun Sen, prime ministerial candidate of the ruling CPP, also reiterated an appeal for a new coalition government to be formed as soon as possible for the sake of the country’s stability and development, and to respect the will of the voters.
“This is the best possibility for Cambodian people, the international community and all political parties,” he said.
But as a second scenario, he said the King has agreed to allow the current government to continue temporarily if coalition negotiations aren’t completed by Sept 24, the date new parliamentarians are scheduled to be sworn in.
The second prime minister’s comments came in a news conference following a meeting between the King and top CPP officials at the King’s residence here.
The previously scheduled meeting followed on the heels of the King calling for the three major parties and representatives of the National Election Committee and Constitutional Council to meet over the weekend in efforts to break a month-long deadlock.
The CPP won the majority of the parliamentary seats in the July 26 election, but not the two-thirds necessary to form the new government on its own.
Hun Sen said he and CPP President Chea Sim would stay in Siem Reap to attend weekend talks. He urged opposition political leaders to join him in a spirit of national reconciliation.
Hun Sen said the CPP realizes it must send its top officials to the weekend meetings out of respect for the King. Second, Hun Sen said, important political decisions can only be made by the highest officials. “So I hope Funcinpec and [Sam] Rainsy would send their top levels to the meeting with the King,” he said.
But Sam Rainsy on Thursday issued a statement saying he would not attend. “I understand that His Majesty the King’s intention…is to discuss disputes related to the [election] and related legal and technical matters,” he wrote. “Out of respect for His Majesty’s intent, the Sam Rainsy Party has selected its delegates based on their familiarity of these legal and technical issues.”
Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have insisted that their demands for recounts, revotes in some areas, ballot reconciliation and the use of an earlier seat formula more favorable to them be met before they will discuss forming a coalition government.
Sam Rainsy said Thursday he thought Hun Sen’s call for top-level meetings was a “trick” to bypass complaints and go straight to coalition negotiations.
When asked whether he could forgive Sam Rainsy for the volatile demonstrations in Phnom Penh and the damage done to the Cambodia-Vietnam Liberation Monument, Hun Sen said that was a better question to pose to Sam Rainsy himself. “His activity has to be responded to by him,” Hun Sen said.
Later in the press conference, Hun Sen noted the government’s “restraint” since the elections.
He said the worst-case scenario would be if Cambodia is unable is unable to form a new government or convene a new Assembly. While opposition parties have the right not to join the government, Hun Sen said not joining the new Assembly would be acting against the will of Cambodians who voted them into office.
In reference to a question about possible recounts or revolting in disputed areas, Hun Sen said he felt the electoral process should be accepted “so we can save our country. Everything has been done in accordance with the law.”
(Additional reporting by Kay Johnson)