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Cambodia rivals hold talks amid protests

Prime minister and opposition leader continue negotiations to end deadlock over July's disputed general election.

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2013 17:57
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Officials say Hun Sen, right, and Rainsy, left, have agreed to look at reforms of institutions [AFP]

Cambodia's main opposition party has said that a deal to end the stalemate over July's disputed general election could be near.

Officials said on Tuesday they had agreed to look at reforms to institutions, but Hun Sen, the Southeast Asian country's long-standing prime minister, still rejected the idea of an independent inquiry into the July poll.

The comments came after Hun Sen met Sam Rainsy of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for a second day of talks.

Meanwhile, a rally by supporters of the opposition went ahead on Tuesday without the violence seen at the weekend, when one man was shot and several injured.

We will not betray the will of the people. Democratic forces will vanquish acts of dictatorship.

Sam Rainsy, Opposition leader

Between 10 and 20,000 people gathered in a park in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, for the final day of a three-day rally to protest against what they see as the rigging of the election.

Some had again defied the authorities by camping there overnight.

Emotions were running high when a 35-year-old monk poured petrol on himself while on stage in an apparent attempt to set himself on fire, but was stopped by onlookers.

"He is very emotional and he wants a solution to be reached more quickly," a senior opposition party official, Ho Vann, was quoted as saying.

Politicians and party activists lined up to denounce the National Election Committee (NEC) and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which was awarded victory in the election with 68 seats in the 123-member parliament to the CNRP's 55.

"We will not betray the will of the people," Rainsy told the protesters.

"Democratic forces will vanquish acts of dictatorship."

Talks continue

The opposition has said it will try to paralyse the legislature by boycotting the opening session of parliament on September 23 unless the alleged poll irregularities are addressed.

But while officials said they had agreed to look at how future general elections are held, 61 year-old Hun Sen, who has vowed to rule until he is 74, rejected the demand for an investigation into the previous election.

Prak Sokhon, spokesman for the CPP, said the two sides had agreed on several points, and now had to discuss them with their respective party members before meeting again.

He said there was not yet 100 percent agreement, but some points had already been agreed upon.

Opposition leaders said on Tuesday they would launch further protests if talks did not yield a solution.

"We've come closer and closer to a solution. We expressed our opinions, we told each other about our objective to reform national institutions," Yim Sovann, a spokesman for CNRP, said.

"But there are so many problems that have been around for so long, so we need time to discuss them."

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