A United Nations envoy urged Cambodia’s opposition party and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on Tuesday to adhere to the terms of a pact they forged last summer in which they agreed to end a political deadlock.
Surya P. Subedi, the U.N. special envoy on Cambodian human rights, called on opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy and party vice president Kem Sokha, along with the ruling CPP, to continue their dialogue to improve the country’s development and reform.
“I hope that no one will walk in a wrong way in terms of promoting reforms process,” he said following a meeting with the political leaders in the capital Phnom Penh.
CNRP lawmakers had boycotted parliament for nearly a year after the July 2013 elections in which they accused the ruling party of vote-rigging.
Subedi, who is in the country on his final visit as a U.N. envoy to assess the country’s human rights situation, said he was happy to see a culture of dialogue between the CPP and CNRP to improve Cambodia’s development and move forward with the country’s democratic process.
During his nine-day mission, he is focusing on the progress Cambodia has made towards making state institutions independent with regard to legal and judicial reform, according to a U.N. press release issued Jan. 15.
Culture of dialogue
Subedi’s remark came a day after Hun Sen told the leaders of the country’s two opposition parties that the culture of dialogue between them had failed because they had criticized the ruling party.
Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly, Sam Rainsy on Tuesday said the CNRP continued to adhere to the political pact, and that he had talked with National Assembly president Heng Samrin to smooth things out in disputes between the parties inside parliament.
“I have talked with Heng Samrin to make sure that we can exchange ideas at the assembly to work together,” he said.
Hun Sen also said that seven opposition party lawmakers would be charged with insurrection for allegedly leading or participating in a violent July 15 demonstration in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh during which at least 40 people—mostly security guards—were injured. The seven were arrested along with several other CNRP members.
Because the politicians were not sworn in as lawmakers when they were arrested, their detention was believed to be the impetus for the CNRP to end its boycott of parliament, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
Even though they were sworn in later last August, they still would not be granted parliamentary immunity, Hun Sen said on Monday. The insurrection charge carries a prison term of up to 30 years.
Heng Samrin told reporters at a separate event on Tuesday that the fate of the seven lawmakers rested with the court and its decision to “strip their immunities or not.”
He also issued a statement on Tuesday declaring Sam Rainsy the minority leader of parliament, Kem Sokha the deputy leader, and Yim Sovann, the CNRP’s spokesperson and chief of executive committee, a secretary.
Speaking at a ceremony Monday marking his 30th year as prime minister, Hun Sen repeated that the seven lawmakers would not get away in the case of the July 15 protest and urged the court to prosecute them.
He also said that the July 22 political agreement between the CPP and CNRP had nothing to do with the court case.
“The CPP lawmakers wouldn’t agree that the assembly drop the case at the court,” Hun Sen said. “The seven lawmakers must face prison terms,” he added.
Lawmaker Mu Sochua, one of seven members of parliament charged with leading an insurrection movement, said she was not afraid of the prison terms.
She said the assembly needed two-thirds of the votes of 123 lawmakers to remove her immunity before the court could prosecute her.
“If the court wants to arrest me first, they need to strip my immunity,” she said.
Hun Sen said he had no patience after opposition party leaders criticized him, although he had never attacked the opposition.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.