Sam Rainsy Says CPP Will ‘Prosper’ Under Hun Sen

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen to express his “enormous satisfaction and happiness” that Mr. Hun Sen was appointed CPP president last weekend, telling the premier he believes the ruling party will grow stronger under his presidency.

Mr. Rainsy, a longtime antagonist of the prime minister who has in the past spent years in exile to avoid criminal charges he attributed to politics, wrote to Mr. Hun Sen on Tuesday to applaud the ruling party’s decision to select him as late CPP President Chea Sim’s successor.

“On behalf of the CNRP and myself, I would like to express enormous satisfaction and happiness and warmest congratulations to Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen], who has been elected as president of the CPP by the 38th congress of the CPP’s central committee,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“I have a strong belief that, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the CPP will continue to prosper and progressively strengthen, and that relations and cooperation in every aspect of the culture of dialogue between the CPP and CNRP will take a deeper root,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hun Sen replied to Mr. Rainsy thanking him for his letter, and expressing his hope that their new “culture of dialogue” would continue.

Contacted Thursday, Mr. Rainsy said the language in his letter to Mr. Hun Sen was standard.

“The congratulations and the wish is that: You can be strong, but the CNRP can be stronger,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“You don’t want anybody to go down the drain or disintegrate,” he added. “Even if you wanted that, you would never say it. The letter is a polite way to wish good luck, as sometimes you wish good luck to your adversaries.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he appreciated Mr. Rainsy’s newfound affability and fondness for Mr. Hun Sen, and said such displays of friendship between the two were important for the “culture of dialogue.”

“They have to prove to the Cambodian people that we are one nation and, secondly, both Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy have committed to implement the culture of dialogue as partners. That’s the way it is,” Mr. Siphan said.

The “culture of dialogue” between Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen emerged following the July 2014 conclusion of the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly that accompanied mass street protests calling for Mr. Hun Sen to resign.

Mr. Rainsy led the demonstrations against the results of the July 2013 election, which dovetailed with garment-worker strikes, until a lethal three days of repression by government forces in January 2014 forced the protesters off the capital’s streets.

In recent months, the opposition has become less outwardly critical of the CPP and Mr. Hun Sen, pledging to work with the government in parliament to solve their grievances.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said Mr. Rainsy’s language differed from that used in the past, but said it did not matter so long as the opposition offered substantive challenges to government policy.

“Now the two parties have started to show different approaches, policies and programs for the people to see that there are two parties, and so the polite words between the two leaders are not so important,” Mr. Saray said.

“With the culture of dialogue, some people worried that there is only one party now, and not two parties, but recently they have started to show their differences—on the [Vietnamese] border, immigration, the land issues,” he added.

“They have to show that they have different approaches and programs, and that is what is important.”

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