Cambodian Deputy Opposition Leader Calls for Normalizing Relations With Ruling Party

cambodia-kem-sokha-leaves-court-apr8-2015.jpg Kem Sokha answers journalists’ questions after leaving the municipal court in Phnom Penh, April 8, 2015.

Cambodian deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha returned to the capital Phnom Penh on Tuesday with two lawmakers who were beaten by thugs at a protest rally last month, and said he would meet with the ruling party soon to try to normalize their deteriorating relations.

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers Nhay Chamreoun and Kong Sophea had returned with Kem Sokha from Thailand where they received medical treatment for injuries sustained during an attack by protesters outside the Cambodian parliament building on Oct. 26.

“[We] all only want justice for them, so that they can have their own safety to carry out our duties continuously,” Kem Sokha told reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport. “What we want the most is to return Cambodia’s political situation to normal so we can continue to work to serve our country.”

Three soldiers have been arrested in connection with the assaults on the two lawmakers, whose lawyer has filed a complaint with the municipal court against their attackers, seeking compensation for attempted murder and property damage. But the pair says others were also involved in the assault.

CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun told reporters that the attackers broke his arm, teeth, nose and a facial bone near one of his eyes.

“It took the doctors five hours to perform the surgery,” he told reporters.

Kong Sophea, the other lawmaker, sustained injuries to his chest, ears and nose.

“We both are still concerned over our personal safety and security after the brutal attack incident on October 26…,” he said.

“Because of the fact that the perpetrators who surrendered [themselves to the authorities] was just something that was orchestrated, many other criminals who rushed to attack both of us are still out of the hands of the law,” he said. “Therefore, [we] ask the relevant authorities to search for [and arrest] more suspects.”

Kem Sokha also said he would meet soon with members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to discuss the arrest warrant issued on Nov. 13 for CNRP President Sam Rainsy on charges stemming from a seven-year-old defamation case—an action that the CNRP believes was politically motivated.

Sam Rainsy, who was traveling to Brussels on Tuesday to lobby the European Union to put pressure on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, faces immediate arrest when he returns to Cambodia because his immunity as a lawmaker had been stripped as a result of an earlier conviction on the charges.

The arrest warrant came a day after Hun Sen threatened legal action against Sam Rainsy for comments he had made on a recent trip to Tokyo, questioning the CPP’s commitment to holding general elections in 2016 and 2017.

When asked whether it would be possible for the CNRP to continue to work and serve the country if Hun Sen arrested Sam Rainsy and continued to put pressure on CNRP deputies, Kem Sokha stressed the need to restore relations between the two political parties.

“We know that the situation is for sure bad, so we must together try to make it return to normal,” he said. “And that normal situation can be achieved if we talk to each other…. But as for what happened to the victimized lawmakers, we have to continue to seek justice for them no matter what.”

CPP lawmakers removed deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha as first vice president of the National Assembly on Oct. 30 in a vote that the CNRP boycotted. The move came days after a CPP-led group protested in front of the parliament demanding that he step down.

The CNRP and CPP touted a “culture of dialogue” between them that came about during a July 2014 political deal in which the CNRP agreed to end an 11-month boycott of parliament over perceived irregularities in the country’s 2013 election.

Although both parties also agreed to form a new electoral body, their relations later deteriorated in part due to the CNRP’s criticism of the government’s handling of a border dispute with neighboring Vietnam.

The CNRP on Tuesday would hold a national meeting to discuss the party’s current and future strategy with senior CNRP officials, Sokha said.

Reported by Morm Moniroth for RFA’s Cambodian Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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