Sar Kheng Says Parties Must ‘Reorient’ to Save Deal

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Thursday that the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP must “reorient” and meet regularly to ensure they are not straying from the terms of last year’s July 22 political deal.

In a joint press conference following a meeting with opposition lead­er Sam Rainsy at the National As­sembly—their first since the pair were named leaders of their parties’ parliamentary delegations—Mr. Kheng said it is vital for the parties to continue talking.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng and opposition leader Sam Rainsy speak to reporters Thursday after meeting for the first time as the leaders of the ruling and opposition party's parliamentary delegations. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Interior Minister Sar Kheng and opposition leader Sam Rainsy speak to reporters Thursday after meeting for the first time as the leaders of the ruling and opposition party’s parliamentary delegations. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The important thing is that the meeting was for us to discuss the way we are going to work in the future, toward what His Excellency [Mr. Rainsy] raised: that we must put effort into implementing the July 22 agreement from 2014 on, as well as the other agreements,” he said.

Mr. Kheng added that he and Mr. Rainsy had discussed whether the parliamentary leaders should meet each other monthly or quarterly. He said no decision on the is­sue was made, but said frequent meetings would be important.

“We can review whether all the activities done by both parties in the past were within the framework of…the July 22, 2014, agreement, or whether they were far away from it,” the interior minister said. “Thus we must reorient in order to turn back toward the July 22, 2014, agreement.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Kheng and Mr. Rainsy were named the leaders of the CPP and CNRP’s delegations of lawmakers, taking up positions created in talks between Mr. Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen in November.

Both before those talks and since, the CPP has repeatedly been accused of violating the July 22 deal by jailing 19 activists and CNRP officials on criminal charges widely believed to be trumped up or excessive.

The July 22 deal ended the CNRP’s boycott of the National Assembly after 10 months and effectively legitimized the disputed results of the July 2013 national election in exchange for promises of reform from the CPP.

Asked by a reporter Thursday whether he believed the CPP had broken the July 22 deal, Mr. Kheng said that the issue had not been part of his talks that morning with Mr. Rainsy.

Mr. Hun Sen said last week that he was fed up with the “culture of dialogue” after a series of verbal attacks on him by opposition leaders, which he said violated the spirit of the July 22 deal, and said it was time to return to politics as usual.

However, Mr. Rainsy said Thursday that meetings between leaders of the minority and majority parties would help extend the life of the “culture of dialogue.”

The opposition leader defended verbal sparring as acceptable discourse, promising to “implement both the words and spirit” of the July 22 deal.

“Though the CPP and the CNRP compete with each other, the competition is for the national interest and is for the security, peace, stability and comfort of the Khmer people,” he said.

Mr. Rainsy said despite Mr. Hun Sen’s comments, the culture of dialogue is necessary to protect peace in Cambodia as the 2018 national election approaches and threatens to reignite political tensions.

“No matter which party wins the next election, the Khmer people will remain in harmony because the parties have found a compromise and respect each other,” Mr. Rainsy said. “We solve problems peacefully at this time, and next time.”

“The culture of dialogue is the basis of democracy,” he added. “As long as we have a culture of dialogue, democracy will grow firmly and vividly.”

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