Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that Cambodia is at a new political stage in its history and called for the continuation of the “culture of dialogue” and putting “an end to the culture of revenge” between politicians from the ruling and opposition parties.
He made the upbeat remarks during a public speech at a Khmer New Year celebration in Siem Reap province, which opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and his wife attended.
“The culture of dialogue has two goals— first, to strengthen peace and [second], to develop the country,” Hun Sen said during his 90-minute speech.
During the ceremony, Sam Rainsy, who sat on the government’s stage for the first time as the prime minster spoke, was not allowed to give a speech.
Hun Sen also appealed to other political parties to follow in the footsteps of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“We are implementing dialogue,” Hun Sen said. “We can encourage dialogue between parties outside the National Assembly [parliament] or parties inside the assembly,” he said. “Peace and social stability can’t be undermined.”
Last week the two parties wrapped up eight months of contentious negotiations on electoral reform. This was followed by the release of 10 imprisoned land-rights activists on Saturday and the freeing of five CNRP members and three monks on Monday. They all had been arrested during protests.
Dialogue could be dangerous
Political analyst Kem Ley told RFA’s Khmer Service that a culture of dialogue could be dangerous for the country and the opposition party. He warned that if the CNRP went easy with the ruling party, there would be no reforms.
He cited the example of the country’s Funcinpec party, which failed to win voter support after it formed a coalition government with the CPP before the 2008 elections. Although Funcinpec is the third-largest party in Cambodia, it failed to win any parliamentary seats in the 2013 general elections.
“When the opposition party is active, the government civil servants and workers are raised, and the government is prepared to conduct many reforms because the opposition party is getting stronger,” he said.
“When the opposition party is strong, the ruling party will conduct major reforms, but now that the opposition party is associated with the ruling party, the government will ignore those reforms.”
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for the domestic rights group Licadho, said he was concerned that the culture of cooperation would dominate for a short period, then the two parties would resume their conflict.
He also said if the CNRP did not get on well with the CPP, the opposition would meet a similar fate as did the Funcinpec party.
But Am Sam Ath also expressed hope that the CNRP would not end up like Funcinpec.
“If the opposition acts like the Funcinpec party, I think it will lose its popularity and see an end to its political life,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said the party would continue to stand behind its principles and support dialogue with the CPP without selling out to it.
“Dialogue is a discussion, so we will tell the government if something is wrong and we need to improve it,” he said, adding that the CNRP would continue to monitor the government, corruption and anything that negatively impacted the people.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.