Sam Rainsy, SRP Members Meeting in Manila

Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been meeting with a del­egation of 30 party lawmakers and members in Manila this week to discuss plans for coming elections in 2007 and 2008 and internal party reforms.

Most of the high-level opposition del­egation, which included party Vice President Kong Korm and First Deputy Secretary-General Meng Rita, as well as 20 parliamentarians and eight female steering com­mittee members, was expected to fly back to Cambodia today, op­po­sition lawmaker Yim Sovann said.

“Sam Rainsy was invited to at­tend an official meeting in Manila, so we took this opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Sam Rainsy, who fled Cambodia in February, has no plans to return un­til the National Assembly has re­stored his parliamentary immunity and that of party colleagues Chea Poch and Cheam Channy.

The return will also be contingent on the release from prison of Cheam Channy, who was senten­ced in August to seven years in pri­son for forming a so-called shadow army, Yim Sovann added.

Sam Rainsy said that Manila was chosen for the meeting because the Philippines, where “people power” has deposed several leaders, was the home of Asian democracy.

“I think they deserve some holiday, and most of them already know Bangkok, so I want them to discover a new country in the Philippines…the Philippines is a true democracy in Asia,” he said by telephone.

Committee for Free and Fair Elections Director Koul Panha welcomed the party’s reform effort but worried that flying party members abroad to meet their leader could drain the party’s resources.

“For a cost-effective meeting they should organize a meeting in Bangkok, but I think it’s a political reason or a safety reason that they go to the Philippines,” he said.


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