Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) voiced confidence Thursday that they can end a seven-month-old post-election political crisis but provided no details.
The fresh round of optimism came as CNRP president Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha attended a large party rally that was probably the first unhindered by security forces or ruling-party hecklers since a violent government crackdown on protests last month.
"I appeal to all Khmers to unite,” Sam Rainsy, who just returned from a foreign trip to muster opposition support, told supporters at the gathering in Kampong Speu province south of the capital Phnom Penh.
"The political deadlock will be resolved soon in order to allow Cambodia to have national unity,” he said, without elaborating.
Kem Sokha echoed his sentiments, saying CNRP leaders would "sacrifice their lives" for the national interest.
But they said nothing of possible solutions to ending the stalemate the country has been locked in since July 2013 elections, in which the CPP was declared the victor by the government-appointed election body despite CNRP allegations of widespread fraud.
The CNRP has boycotted parliament and been holding street protests after its demands for an independent probe into election irregularities and reelections were dismissed by Hun Sen.
Some 1,000 supporters took part in the rally on Thursday, which came after the CNRP called off earlier rallies in Kandal and Kampong Cham provinces as security forces and ruling party supporters were deployed to the areas.
It also came after authorities imposed a ban on demonstrations after a brutal crackdown on Jan. 4, violently dispersing CNRP-led protesters in Freedom Park who were calling for fresh elections and for Hun Sen to step down.
The day before, another police crackdown on an opposition-backed workers' strike left five people dead.
The CNRP said in recent weeks it would not return to talks with the CPP as long as an environment of intimidation of protesters and opposition supporters prevailed.
'Bringing the deadlock to an end'
Prum Sokha, Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior and head of the CPP negotiation team, said Thursday his party would welcome any move from the CNRP to resume talks.
"If they have good intentions, we will definitely have talks. It is not only up to the CPP, it is up to them as well," he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
"We all have the same intention, of bringing the deadlock to an end."
His comments came as the CPP issued a rare statement on Thursday calling on the CNRP to discuss with them establishment of a mechanism to reform the election process.
The CPP has formed a committee to look into election reform, and the CNRP has criticized it for comprising only senior CPP members.
The CPP statement accused the opposition of violating an agreement made during talks between the two parties in September to work together on electoral reform and requested the CNRP assign party officials for the discussions.
The last time the CPP and CNRP sat down for official talks was on November 6, when five-member delegations from each party met for three hours of fruitless discussions.
Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen met in September for the only round of top-level negotiations since the disputed election.
Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia Monday after a two-week trip to Europe and South Korea to drum up international support for his party’s demands.
Kem Sokha said Wednesday that the CNRP will continue to press for an early election before the end of the current government’s term.
Reported by Tin Zakariya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.