National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Thursday said he refuses to meet with opposition leader Sam Rainsy to diffuse tensions between the two as long as Sam Rainsy remains in self-imposed exile.
“The meeting can only take place if I go to meet him or he comes to meet me in Cambodia. But I won’t go,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside the Assembly.
“If he wants to meet me, he must come to Cambodia, but first he must go meet the court,” the prince added, referring to his defamation lawsuit against the opposition leader.
Sam Rainsy fled the country on Feb 3, after the Assembly stripped him and two fellow lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity.
The move opened the way for the courts to proceed with several lawsuits against them.
Earlier this week, Sam Rainsy wrote a letter to the prince, seeking to renew dialogue, after all 24 Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers decided to boycott the Assembly following the controversial Feb 3 session.
“I…have the honor of informing you that I…wish a normalization in the working of our Assembly,” Sam Rainsy wrote from Paris, in a letter dated Tuesday.
“I…am ready to meet you in any place and at any time,” he said.
Sam Rainsy said he wished to discuss, among other things, the end of his party’s boycott of the Assembly; the possibility of including opposition party members in the different parliamentary commissions—from which they have been refused positions; and the freeing of opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy, who was jailed on accusations of forming an illegal armed force after the Assembly stripped him of his immunity.
Opposition members and rights workers have decried Cheam Channy’s continued detention at the military court, saying it is illegal since he is not a member of the military.
They have also raised concerns about his prison conditions and his health.
Prince Ranariddh said Thursday that he has requested better prison conditions for Cheam Channy.
“If Cheam Channy’s health is not good, the government will not ignore it,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)