CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum has declined a request by SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua for a one-on-one meeting to discuss alleged intimidation by ruling party activists, and denied that such intimidation has ever occurred.
In a letter to Say Chhum dated Monday and obtained Thursday, Mu Sochua requested the meeting “in order to reduce intimidation and violence” at the grassroots level.
Mu Sochua wrote that her request was in line with the appeal Prime Minister Hun Sen made during his 56th birthday on April 4 for cooperation between newly elected commune councilors of different political parties.
But in a letter dated Tuesday, Say Chhum responded that CPP members have never intimidated activists from other political parties, and referred Mu Sochua to the National Election Committee and the courts.
Say Chhum could not be reached for comment Wednesday. CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that Say Chhum does not want to meet Mu Sochua, and that complaints of intimidation should be settled through formal channels.
“Those who breach the law must be brought to justice,” Cheam Yeap said, though he added that he, too, did not believe Mu Sochua’s claims. “I cannot accept that CPP activists and commune councilors intimidated the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said.
Cheam Yeap also said that if the SRP would like to work in cooperation with the CPP in the wake of the April 1 commune elections, it should submit a formal request.
“We do not discriminate against any political parties,” he added.
Mu Sochua said by telephone that she wants her letter to be taken seriously.
“[Say Chhum] should investigate those cases [of intimidation] before he rejects my requests,” she said.
“Newly elected Sam Rainsy Party commune councilors are being intimidated by CPP activists and commune councilors,” Mu Sochua said, adding that the SRP has recorded instances of new councilors being summoned to court and verbally threatened, and of party logos being defaced.
“The CPP at the grassroots level are concerned that they will lose in [the 2008 national] election,” she added.
Government spokesman and CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith called Mu Sochua’s request for dialogue “stupid diplomacy.” “We cannot accept the request because there is no intimidation,” he added.
The SRP on April 1 nearly doubled its number of commune council seats from 1,346 to 2,671, and increased its commune chiefs from 13 to 28. The CPP, however, still heads 1,591 of the country’s 1,621 communes.
Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said there have been some cases of CPP members threatening and intimidating SRP commune councilors since the commune elections.
He added that Mu Sochua’s “soft strategy” could help to prevent violence if others participate in a dialogue. “It is a good strategy to have sustainable solutions,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Tomei)