SRP Ready To Compromise, Lawmaker Says

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Wednesday that the op­­­position party is prepared to com­­promise with Prime Minister Hun Sen to try and secure the re­lease of jailed opposition party mem­ber Cheam Channy.

Son Chhay said he was optimistic that an understanding could be reached between the opposition and Hun Sen.

The Sam Rainsy Party is willing to cease its calls for international pressure against the government, and to tone down its opposition to Hun Sen’s leadership of the country, Son Chhay said at a news conference at his office at the National Assembly.

He also said the party would agree to stop filing lawsuits against other politicians—a problem that he said was also being caused by   gov­ernment officials.

“International pressure is the old story. We can avoid more international pressure by coming to an understanding between Khmer and Khmer,” Son Chhay said. “This is a new historical page for so­lutions between Khmer and Khmer.”

Son Chhay said he believed Hun Sen would not give in to international condemnation of Cheam Channy’s prosecution, and that the  premier would only agree to his

re­lease if a compromise was struck. “We should avoid using court and compromise instead…. We know that Samdech Hun Sen has a will to let Cheam Channy out of jail,” he said.

He added that Hun Sen had be­come increasingly frustrated by in­ternational criticism over the case.

Cheam Channy was sentenced to seven years in prison in August after being found guilty of forming a so-called illegal armed force. Friday is the first anniversary of Cheam Channy’s imprisonment.

Under the suggested compromise, Son Chhay said, Hun Sen could request a letter of pardon for Cheam Channy from King Norodom Sihamoni.

Such a request was reasonable in light of the release on bail last month of four prominent activists jailed for defamation, he said.

Son Chhay also said a compromise could make it possible for Sam Rainsy, who is currently living in exile in Paris and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in absentia for defamation on Dec 22, to return to Cambodia.

Son Chhay added, however, that government officials must respect the role of the opposition party.

Government spokesman and In­formation Minister Khieu Kan­harith said he wanted to see Cheam Channy released but said Son Chhay’s comment could be “too early and the wrong move.”

Khieu Kanharith said he has not yet discussed the matter with top officials, but said such a compromise would give the impression that the government was caving in to the demands of opposition officials.

He added that there was more to obtaining a pardon than just asking the king for one.

“It sounds like leading someone’s hand by force to do something. Don’t pour away your water when you have just heard the thunder,” Khieu Kanharith said.

He also questioned whether Son Chhay’s remarks actually re­flected the opinion of the opposition party.

Opposition party member Mu So­chua and opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann could not be reached for comment.

            (Additional reporting by Whitney Kvasager)



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