Cambodia Moves Farther Away From Culture of Dialogue

2016-06-22
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Sam Rainsy Party Sen. Hong Sok Hour is escorted from the supreme court back to Prey Sar Prison where he is being detained, June 22 , 2016.
Sam Rainsy Party Sen. Hong Sok Hour is escorted from the supreme court back to Prey Sar Prison where he is being detained, June 22 , 2016.
RFA/Rann Samnang

There is little hope that a “culture of dialogue” will return to Cambodia anytime soon as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) appears unwilling to open discussions with its rivals as long as the government’s various cases against opposition party officials are wending their way through the courts.

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan told RFA listeners during a June 21 call-in show that the talks will remain in limbo until the court cases are settled.

“If the cases of those offenders is over, then we will look into the possibility of negotiations,” he said. “But it has to be done under a condition that does not include negotiations for the release of the people in jail.”

The government is pursuing a number of cases against high-profile opposition party officials and rights workers, drawing widespread condemnation from the international human rights community as well as foreign aid donors, excluding China.

Among those cases is the push by Hun Sen’s government and the ruling CPP to bring Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha before the courts for questioning regarding his alleged affair with a young hairdresser.

That case has seen the arrest of four employees of the human rights group ADHOC and a member of the National Election Commission (NEC), while an arrest warrant was also issued for a U.N. worker. Heavily armed police also attempted to arrest Kem Sokha at CNRP headquarters for failing to appear in court in a pair of cases related to the alleged affair

The case of the Kem Sokha Five is not the only one that is tied up in the Cambodian judicial system. About a dozen opposition party members are imprisoned in Prey Sar including Hong Sok Hour, a member of the senate from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, which merged with the Human Rights Party to form the CNRP.

Police arrested Hong Sok Hour in 2015 after he posted comments on social media that claimed an article in the 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Treaty was meant to dismantle, rather than define, the border between the two countries.

‘It’s politics, and everyone knows it.’

On Wednesday Cambodia’s supreme court denied Hong Sok Hour’s appeal of a lower court decision denying bail.

“No surprise,” he told reporters after the hearing. “It is politics, and everyone knows it.”

When asked if there is a “political solution,” he answered: “Not yet known.”

CNRP President Sam Rainsy has been staying in France or traveling since an arrest warrant was issued for him in November over a 2008 defamation case and he was removed from his office and stripped of his parliamentary immunity. After Sam Rainsy left the country, the CNRP named Kem Sokha its acting president.

The litany of cases, and CPP insistence that they run their course before the party negotiates with the CNRP, makes it unlikely that the two sides will have serious talks anytime soon.

“If there are any changes before the court’s decision, it seems that the CPP will lose face, or that it is proof that what has happened was certainly politically motivated,” said independent analyst Meas Ny. “I think that sometimes the CPP wants to take its time.”

CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovanna told RFA on Wednesday there has been no response from the CPP regarding any resumption of “the culture of dialogue.”

“I have not received any word from the other party,” he said.

“Culture of dialogue” was the tag given to the uneasy political truce Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy forged in the aftermath of 2014’s bloody post-election season and a tense 10-month political standoff.

Thumbprint trouble

There are other indications that the government and the CPP have little interest in restarting talks as RFA's Khmer Service has learned that Cambodian authorities are preparing to seek legal action against opposition party officials who they accuse of fraudulently collecting thumbprints on petitions asking King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene in the nation’s political upheaval.

Ministry of Interior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak told reporters that investigators have thoroughly reviewed the 17,000 thumbprints collected by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on petitions seeking the king’s assistance. Thumbprints often take the place of signatures in Cambodia.

The government claims that 88 thumbprints on the petitions came from the same individual, that some thumbprints lacked corresponding names, and that the thumbprints did not come from all 25 of the nation’s provinces.

Khieu Sopheak said the government is looking into charges related to the 88 thumbprints that lacked a corresponding identity, and charges related to presenting fraudulent documents to the king.

He singled out CNRP lawmaker Nhem Ponharith, who is also the current party spokesman, saying that he now faces government scrutiny for leading the group that presented the petition to the king.

“Nhem Ponharith presented the king with the fake thumbprints. He will not go unpunished,” he said. “I will have to leave it up to the court to decide on this.”

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin and Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Anonymous Reader

Doing the same thing over and over and then expecting a different outcome is a definition of insanity...,according to Albert Einstein.

Both parties have same leader CPP Hun Sen, and CNRP Sam Rainsy.

Mr. Rainsy wants to play the hero role, but run into self exile all the time. Awhile in exile maybe Rainsy should take up gun shooting, and attend boot camp to muster up some courage.

Mr. Hun Sen plays the bad role, and trained all his cronnies be like amoeba parasites that feast on any host that invest in cambodia. Beware investors in Cambodia, unless you like investing in a black hole.

Jun 24, 2016 02:23 AM

Anonymous Reader

Yes, both parties have the same leaders. Hun Sin is in control running the country and slowly destroying the country in the process. Sam Rainsy is there to criticize Hun Sin's policy. The problem is no one can criticize Hun Sinner, not even the international community. How many UN envoys came to Cambodia, and how many did Hun Sin like? None!!

So again, what is CNRP supposed to do? Look at Um Sam An came back and was thrown in jail regardless of his immunity. What can Um Sam An do from jail cells other than waiting for CPP to pass judgement on him. If Sam Rainsy came back he would meet the same fate as Um Sam An.

This is where are at now, Hun Sinner determined to stay in power even if he had to break the law to achieve his goal. And how many people will allow him to do this? If he breaks the law once, he will continue to it again and again because it was okay the first time. And yes, this is how a dictator was created.

Jun 25, 2016 09:34 AM

Savath Pou

from Phnom Penh

Between the CPP and the CNRP, no more talks, please!

The general Khmer public is sick and tired of the negotiations, the culture of dialogue and the other types of talk between the ruling CPP and the Opposition CNRP which have taken place in Phnom Penh only God can remember how many times already. Have they achieved any positive outcome thus far? None whatsoever!

And now, the Opposition leaders are gathering local and foreign support for their quest in convincing the CPP-led Government to sit down and talk with them again in order to solve all the problems which are seen to be stemmed mostly from either their own stupidity or mistakes.

In truth, the CPP and the Government are given the upper hand only by the CNRP, and definitely not by anybody else. In other words, only the CNRP has made the ruling party and the Government so strong as all of us have seen today.

In concluding my comment, I am asking only a few questions to the CNRP:

Why do you want more talks with the ruling CPP and/or the Government?

Do you want to make them stronger and stronger until they become invincible in the near future?

How can you not see how stupid and how disorganized you are?

Phnom Penh, 23rd June 2016 at 7:35AM local time.
Savath Pou,
Senator Expelled.



[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jun 23, 2016 09:42 AM

Anonymous Reader

What is your suggestion if talks between the 2 parties are not the answer?

Both parties talk about getting the negotiation going and that's about it. Nothing more beyond that. Meanwhile, CNRP is getting punch kick by the CPP. So what is the CNRP supposed to do? Turn the other cheek like Buddha said, don't fight back? How is the CNRP supposed to defense itself? 2017 election is a year away. Even a simple as getting thumb prints, the CPP thugs are looking for trouble. They will find something wrong with the thumb prints. And the CPP will not let CNRP talk to the King or the International community. Fortunately, International Community is not like Khmer King. The Khmer King has forgotten his role and responsibility to the people and country. That's the sad truth.

BTW, how is your friend Phay Siphan? You two were together in the senate in the 90s. I remember both of you got in trouble with the CPP. Siphan decided to defect to CPP from Sam Rainsy Party. I guess he found a greener grass on the other side...LOL

Jun 23, 2016 04:53 PM

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