Talks fail to end Cambodia’s stalemate

Talks between Cambodia’s PM and main opposition leader fail to conclude political stalemate, protests said to follow.

Rainsy greets supporters at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh
Sam Rainsy's party expects 20,000 people in mass protest demanding an investigation into election results [Reuters]

Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen and main opposition leader Sam Rainsy have met briefly for the first time in years but reached no resolution on the political standoff that has engulfed the country’s disputed election. 

Saturday’s meeting between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy was mediated by King Norodom Sihamoni and held at the Royal Palace in the capital, Phnom Penh.

The brief conference concluded after 20 minutes with Hun Sen leaving without commenting. When asked what resulted from the meeting Rainsy replied: “No, no, there is nothing.” 

According to official results, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 seats in the July polls against 55 for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Post-election stalemate 

Long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen reached no agreement with opposition leader Sam Rainsy [AFP]

The opposition has rejected the result, alleging widespread vote rigging, but so far its efforts to challenge the outcome have failed and it has few options left in its bid to overturn Hun Sen’s victory.

As the post-election stalemate drags on, hopes have risen in light of King Sihamoni’s involvement as a mediator.

A role often played by his father, the late Norodom Sihanouk helped broker an end to civil war in 1991.

“The king is the only person right now who can get these two parties to meet and discuss all their differences,” opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said this week. 

President of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Ou Virak said the discussions could have focused on reforming the electoral commission, giving the opposition several parliamentary leadership positions and allowing Sam Rainsy to take a seat in parliament.

Sihamoni pardoned the self-exiled Sam Rainsy prior to the vote at the request of Hun Sen – likely under pressure to legitimize the poll. Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia too late to register as a candidate himself. 

The meeting comes a day before the opposition planned another mass protest in Phnom Penh. The opposition party have said they expect 20,000 people to turn out to demand an investigation into the election results. They say the protest will last three days.  

The discovery of several explosive devices in the capital Phnom Penh on Friday add to tensions ahead of planned mass rallies starting on Sunday, raising fears of prolonged political paralysis.

Source: AP