Lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) attended their first parliamentary meeting on Friday after a year-long boycott, calling for an effective dialogue with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to tackle the country’s problems.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy led the 55 lawmakers from the opposition in taking their seats in the National Assembly following a July 22 agreement with Hun Sen that broke a one-year political deadlock arising from disputed July 2013 general elections.
“It’s time Cambodian politicians work together to build a dialogue culture in the spirit of mutual respect for the interest of peace in the country,” Sam Rainsy said, addressing the lower house of parliament.
Sam Rainsy expressed his appreciation to Hun Sen for his efforts to bring an end to the country’s political crisis through a compromise in which the government agreed to adopt electoral reforms while the CNRP ended its boycott of parliament.
Sam Rainsy said that rather than place emphasis on winning or losing, what was more important was “seeking good ideas to help protect and rebuild the country.”
The CNRP had earlier refused to recognize the result of the 2013 elections, saying it was robbed of victory by Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) amid accusations of rigging and other malpractices blamed on the government-appointed National Election Committee, which organized the polls.
Hun Sen said the two parties could have ended the political crisis much earlier if the CNRP was prepared to compromise.
He said that they were near to forging an agreement in September last year which was similar to the pact signed last month.
The prime minister also expressed the hope that the CNRP would refrain from whipping up anti-Vietnam sentiment for political gain.
The CNRP has accused Hun Sen of being a "puppet" of neighboring Vietnam. Many Cambodians are wary of Vietnam’s influence over their country’s affairs.
An estimated 1.7 million people, or one in four Cambodians, died in what came to be called the “Killing Fields” after the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The regime was unseated when Vietnam invaded the country four years later.
Vietnam occupied the country for a decade before withdrawing its troops and signing the Paris Peace Agreement to restore sovereignty and stability to Cambodia.
“I hope that the CPP would not be accused of being a Vietname puppet. If you regard me as a Vietnamese [puppet], it means that we are enemies,” Hun Sen said.
Sam Rainsy did not respond.
The opposition leader was convicted and ordered jailed in 2009 for the removal of a temporary post demarcating Cambodia’s border with Vietnam and for publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam, charges that were seen as politically motivated.
He was given a pardon by the country's king, enabling him to return from self-exile in France just before the July elections.
Reported by Yeang Socheameta for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.