Hun Sen Asks UN Envoy to Help End Cambodia’s Political Crisis

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Khieu Kanharith speaks to RFA in Phnom Penh, Jan. 15, 2014.
Khieu Kanharith speaks to RFA in Phnom Penh, Jan. 15, 2014.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on a U.N. special envoy to press the country’s opposition to rejoin parliament and negotiate an end to the country’s political stalemate since disputed July elections, an official said Wednesday.

Hun Sen met with U.N. special envoy for human rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi for three hours on Wednesday, discussing topics ranging from rights issues to political reform, according to the Cambodian government human rights committee chairman Om Yientieng.

The prime minister stressed to Subedi, who arrived Sunday for a six-day fact-finding mission, that the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) legislators should lift a boycott of the National Assembly, or parliament, and end their dispute with their counterparts in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) by working on issues of reform together, he said after the talks.

“Samdech [honorific] Hun Sen has conveyed his message to Surya Subedi, asking him to inform the CNRP to join the National Assembly to work on deep reforms which would benefit the opposition party,” said Om Yientieng, who is also president of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit.

The CNRP boycotted parliament and has held frequent nonviolent mass protests calling on Hun Sen to quit and to hold new elections following last year’s July 28 disputed polls, which it maintains the CPP stole through voting fraud and other irregularities.

“Why won’t the CNRP take a chance to reach their goals?” Om Yientieng asked, adding that with 55 elected lawmakers—according to official count—the opposition has enough seats to summon any government official before the legislature.

“As an opposition party they don’t have to be running the government and they can still accomplish a lot,” he said.

“Why won’t they come to the National Assembly?”

Hun Sen has dismissed opposition calls for his resignation and for him to call new elections, saying he was elected constitutionally. He has also rejected calls for an independent probe into the elections.

Talks between the two parties are reportedly under way, but it remains unclear how likely they are to end in an agreement after repeated meetings held since the elections have failed to yield any progress.

Om Yientieng said that in addition to urging Subedi to intervene in the political stalemate, Hun Sen also discussed the general situation of human rights in Cambodia and the mandate of the envoy, who is due to present an annual report on his findings to the United Nations in July.

Hun Sen told Subedi that the government would take responsibility for implementing reforms proposed by the U.N., including those to streamline key state institutions and the judiciary.

According to Om Yientieng, Subedi asked about the government’s plans to create a national human rights committee and expressed his concerns over a crackdown by authorities earlier this month on striking factory workers which left five dead and more than 40 wounded.

Twenty-three activists and others have also been thrown in jail following the deadly crackdown.

Subedi pledged to make himself available to provide advice for the prime minister on any issues regarding human rights or the political deadlock.

‘Bridging the gap’

In a video interview by the Phnom Penh Post, Subedi acknowledged that Hun Sen had pushed for the National Assembly as the arena in which to end the stalemate between the CNRP and CPP, but suggested negotiations between the two parties were already under way.

“The prime minister’s position was that parliament was the proper venue to resolve many of these issues,” he said. “There should be a proper debate in parliament, and the opposition party should join parliament.”

“But I understand there have been negotiations going on at different levels with the help of different intermediaries,” he added, without providing details.

Subedi said that he had received “encouraging” signs during his meeting with Hun Sen that the prime minister “is serious about comprehensive reform … [which] will go a long way to satisfy some of the concerns I have received from the opposition party and other stakeholders in Cambodian society.”

He said that while the government had been slow to act on his former recommendations, Hun Sen’s assurances Wednesday that electoral, judicial, parliamentary, and land reforms will get under way before Subedi’s next visit in either May or June were “more concrete” this time around.

Subedi lamented the recent crackdown on workers striking for increased wages and better factory conditions, as well as a recent government move to remove opposition protesters from their base in the capital, and called on the international community to play a role in promoting democratic freedoms in Cambodia.

“The international community has invested heavily in Cambodia over the past 20 years, including the United Nations, and the series of events that have taken place over the past two weeks or so has made everybody sad, including myself,” he said.

“We thought democracy was getting mature and people were getting used to the idea of exercising their rights in a peaceful manner. This setback has upset many people, and the international community has a role to play in bridging the gap between the opposition party and the ruling party.”

According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, Subedi will hold a press conference on Thursday to brief reporters on his findings and the issues he raised during this week’s visit.

Negotiations under way?

The meeting between Hun Sen and Subedi follows reports that CNRP President Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, had written a letter to Hun Sen via a mediator seeking a “compromise for national reconciliation” and offering a list of demands that could result in their party’s return to parliament.

Kem Sokha denied that the CNRP had sent any letters to the CPP, adding that his party maintained “the same stance as before in terms of talks.”

He said that before any talks can be held, the government must release the 23 people who are being detained in connection with worker protests and investigate the deadly shooting incident during the strike earlier this month.

The government must also restore Cambodia’s human rights situation “back to normal” and allow the people to hold protests, he said.

The Phnom Penh Post reported Tuesday that secret negotiations between the CPP and the CNRP had been ongoing since Jan. 5 and “are close to reaching a solution,” citing political analyst Kem Ley and Heang Rithy, president of the rights group Cambodian National Research Organization.

The two analysts said they had been briefed in depth by the senior government official acting as a go-between in the negotiations, and that according to Kem Ley, Hun Sen had agreed to 80 percent of the opposition’s key demands.

According to the sources, the CNRP letter demanded fresh elections in 2015 or 2016, the chairmanship of some parliamentary commissions, the right to run a television station to counter ruling party influence ahead of elections and for the CPP to agree to look at electoral reforms.

It also asked for the deputy presidency of the National Assembly, instead of its previous demand for the presidency, in exchange for an end to its boycott of parliament.

Officials from both parties appeared to downplay any suggestion of ongoing negotiations.

On Wednesday, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told RFA’s Khmer Service that the CNRP had set several “preconditions” before it would renew talks and that if these were deemed acceptable, the CPP would return to the table, though he refused to elaborate on what the conditions were.

“They have set a few conditions and we are considering some of those conditions,” he said.

“I can’t say because I don’t want to give the idea that one party is asking the other party. We must keep this confidential.”

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (8)

Anonymous Reader

Om Yientieng should be appointed as the president of curruption init because so far nothing much has been done to get rid of curruption. The only thing that was done if Hun Sen wanted done. Now to answer to why the CNRP does not want to join this gov't is because they don't want to work with thieve like the CPP. You leader is nothing but an uneducated thief and crook. Since when does the CPP care to deal and work with any other parties anyway? Perhaps now you need them to help you hold on to power and to fulfill you agendas don't you? Well this time keep dreaming.

Jan 21, 2014 10:09 AM

Anonymous Reader

Hi I heard from some people that the whole killing field business have been plan by Hanoi long ago and that Pol Pot and all the communist leaderships including the present who are working for Hanoi that why they killed off all our highly educated Khmers so that no resistant when they annex the rest of Cambodia? is this true?anyone know?

Jan 18, 2014 05:56 AM

Truth Seeker


The USA has huge problems its illegal immigration with Mexicans. France also faces huge problems with illegal Muslim immigrants from Africa. However, Cambodia battles the biggest land lost of 2+ millions hectares to an exploding Vietnamese population of 3+ millions from 200 000 in 1979. We do not have that problem from the neighboring Thailand.
So in 1979 was it the liberation or the occupation and invasion of the Vietnamese in Cambodia?
1. The CPP has not changed. Hanoi installed it since 1979 as long as Hun Sen has been in power controlled by Hanoi.
2. Hun Sen used the same communistic, Egocentric policies as Hanoi.
3. 35 years later it is becoming more and more obvious, clearer and irrefutable to even dumb and dumber Cambodians that Vietnam is taking over Cambodia. Hun Sen was global to Hanoi's HIDDEN AGENDA.

Jan 17, 2014 02:11 AM

Anonymous Reader

I used to live in Phnom Penh surrounded by lots of Vietnamese families who I thought were Khmer. They spoke fluent Khmer when I talked to them. Then I found out they have families in Vietnam which they make trip to see their families once a year in Saigon.

I don't hate the Vietnamese, these are nice families. Their kids were born in Cambodia which make them Khmer citizens just like everyone else. What I hate is Cambodia immigration policy which easily allowed these Vietnamese to come in. Like I said, I don't blame them, they probably were trying to escape Communist; I blame is the corrupt system run by this corrupt government.

Jan 18, 2014 10:31 AM

Anonymous Reader

from USA

The Kbotcheat CPP is infiltraded by the Vietnamese Thick Rings/Layers of Spy elements in the Royal Gov of Cambodia in every corner/department, especially the Interior-Information-Foreign Affair-Defense-Justice-Police security Force (even hun sen body guards more than 11000 are mostly special yuon commando)-Finance-Tourist-and the Deputy Prime minister led by Sok An- The Hun Sen clans cannot move without the green light from Hanoi-Everything is set up and directed by Hanoi-Only our People power can save our country-We must do non-violent protest at all time to defeat them-But United We Win!

Jan 16, 2014 10:50 AM

Nolan Sam

from Eagle Master

[...] don't twist your [...],you are try look down to international communities .

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jan 16, 2014 10:39 AM


from USA

Eagle- more than 5 khmers are dead-internal-we are very concern-condemn-but Hun Sen still do it-Khmer to help your self first-before they can help us-Koin us infront of the white house and kiss Obama and John Kerry's [...] a little bit they can help us a little bit by telling Hanoi to slow down or take the kbotcheat Khmer CPP's Hun Sen off!

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jan 16, 2014 03:57 PM

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