Opposition lawmakers are offering Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen an olive branch as the Cambodia National Rescue Party plans to end its four-month-long parliamentary boycott.
On Tuesday, senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the party’s lawmakers would return to the National Assembly in an effort to end the country’s political crisis.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently indicated that he prefers dialogue to the threat of mass demonstrations,” Son Chhay said. “That is a favorable indication. It is just about time to end our differences in a way that does not make any party look bad.”
While Son Chhay said CNRP lawmakers will resume their duties in the National Assembly, the party doesn’t appear to be entirely ready to bury the hatchet as they intend to launch an attempt to remove some of Hun Sen’s ministers.
Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party holds 68 seats in the National Assembly, while the CNRP holds 55 seats.
Son Chhay said that a proposal to remove a minister requires 30 votes, and they plan on attempting to remove Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng because they say he isn’t up to the task.
“The health minister will be questioned, and if we are not satisfied with his answers we will vote to remove him,” he said. “If our proposal is not successful, our message will be conveyed so that health issues are better addressed.”
Son Chhay said the CNRP’s decision to end the boycott is an effort to reopen a dialog with Hun Sen and the CPP. But the move comes as authorities are still holding several opposition lawmakers and anti-government activists in prison.
Son Chhay’s announcement came during a visit with opposition lawmakers Um Sam An and Senator Hong Sok Hour and other activists who are being held in Cambodia’s notorious Prey Sar prison.
Hun Sen’s Day of Peace Message
While Son Chhay was meeting with colleagues in Prey Sar, the prime minister was extolling the virtues of peace and his 31-year reign over the country in a “public letter” commemorating the International Day of Peace on Wednesday.
“We should resort to a culture of non-violence, exercise the utmost restraint, appreciate mutual understanding, maintain public order, respect the law and engage in solving any problems by peaceful means,” he wrote.
Hun Sen’s public letter may celebrate a day of peace, but his words earlier in the week hinted at something darker.
On Monday he threatened to crack down on demonstrators and ruled out any negotiations while the CNRP was threatening to stage a mass protest in coming weeks.
“You can never threaten us with the demonstrations. Let me make it clear that it is not going to work that way,” he said. “Don’t even think about it. If I ever enter into such negotiations I will be nothing short of a dog.”
In remarks at National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, he threatened to retaliate.
“I will issue orders for counter demonstrations everywhere you start them. You enjoy the right to demonstrate,” he said. “Why shouldn’t we reserve our right to retaliate?”
Reported by Vuthy Tha and Nareth Muong for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.