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CNRP to end boycott, return to National Assembly

Cambodia National Rescue Party representatives approach a checkpoint at Prey Sar prison yesterday where they visited detained party members and supporters.
Cambodia National Rescue Party representatives approach a checkpoint at Prey Sar prison yesterday where they visited detained party members and supporters. Pha Lina

CNRP to end boycott, return to National Assembly

The Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday pledged to end its effective boycott of parliament and return to the National Assembly in hopes of negotiating a solution with the CPP to the country’s ongoing political crisis.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said yesterday that the decision to end its parliamentary boycott was a response to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, in which he deemed the parliament the “only place to talk”.

Chhay said the party, besieged by a raft of legal cases widely considered political, hopes to negotiate a solution with their ruling party counterparts within two or three months.

He also vowed to use the party’s parliamentary prerogative to grill Defence Minister Tea Banh over use of the military against the party after troops conducted numerous “exercises” around CNRP headquarters in an apparent show of force accompanied by ominous rhetoric from top officials.

Also in the CNRP’s crosshairs is Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon, who will be questioned over falling rice prices and land disputes, and Health Minister Mam Bun Heng, who lawmakers will query about the Kingdom’s poor health service, Chhay said.

“I will prepare questions for members of government,” Chhay told reporters outside Prey Sar prison, where he and other lawmakers yesterday visited several imprisoned colleagues.

“This is work that we want to do regularly, and there is an agreement [which allows us to work in the parliament].”

But while the prime minister on Monday said meeting at parliament could “create some understandings”, he also vowed to “eliminate” the opposition if it proceeded with plans to hold a mass protest against the harassment of its members by the court.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay talks to the media at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison yesterday.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay talks to the media at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison yesterday. Pha Lina

The premier further said that he would consider himself a “dog” if he negotiated with the CNRP, and acknowledged ordering the military manoeuvres near the opposition’s headquarters, but claimed they were to ready troops for potential terror attacks.

CNRP spokespeople were unreachable yesterday to address whether the premier’s hard-line stance would pose an insurmountable barrier to reaching a deal.

During his press conference, Chhay did, however, address the military’s increasing involvement in the Kingdom’s politics.

He said opposition lawmakers would grill Banh about statements by several military generals threatening the CNRP and expressing absolute support for the ruling CPP.

“We cannot allow the national army to make expressions biased to a political party like this,” he said. “Such public declarations make others insult our country seriously. It needs reform.”

“The military . . . must have discipline and be an army to defend territorial integrity and offer harmony for all citizens,” he added.

Reached yesterday, CPP senior lawmaker Chheang Vun said the CNRP was welcome to rejoin the parliament, but insisted the “individual cases” of opposition members would not be up for discussion.

Currently, two opposition lawmakers, along with several lower-level party members and activists, are in prison.

Both leaders of the opposition are facing prison time in cases considered politically motivated. President Sam Rainsy has fled into self-imposed exile, while acting president Kem Sokha is hiding at CNRP headquarters to avoid arrest.

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