Opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from a trip to Australia on Tuesday and threatened the resumption of mass demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen if the ruling CPP continues to refuse opposition demands to reform the National Election Committee (NEC).
Arriving at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Leu commune after a weeklong trip to Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Rainsy told supporters that the opposition was now considering its options after the apparent breakdown of the bipartisan National Electoral Commission.
“Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we will have good news, and the news will follow the willingness of the people,” Mr. Rainsy said.
“We follow the will of the people, and if they want to do demonstrations, we will do demonstrations again—bigger and bigger,” he told about 100 supporters. “I am waiting to listen to you.”
On Monday, CPP and CNRP representatives refused to even appear alongside each other after the fourth meeting of their electoral commission, which has been marred by discord since its creation late last month.
CPP delegates have said they will not consider an opposition proposal to require two-thirds of the National Assembly to agree on appointees to the NEC, which is currently controlled by the ruling party.
The opposition in turn suggested that the issue should be discussed in direct talks between Mr. Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The CPP has said that such a meeting will not happen.
Mr. Rainsy said by telephone Tuesday that the CNRP’s next step would be to request the CPP offer a counterproposal on NEC reform.
“We all agree there must be election reform. Now the ball is in the court of the CPP to show how they want to ensure the independence of the NEC,” Mr. Rainsy said. “If they respond [that] they are not interested in reform of the NEC or give us ambiguous answers, we will ask them to elaborate.”
“If the CPP shows they have no will to reform the NEC, then [we] will have solid ground—moral and political—to hold massive demonstrations.”
The CNRP’s last round of mass demonstrations and marches were violently put down by security guards and plainclothes government thugs on January 4. The repression came after a two-day strike-breaking effort by the CPP government, in which state forces shot dead five garment workers and imprisoned 21 protesters.
Chheang Vun, a CPP lawmaker and spokesman for the National Assembly, warned the opposition to stop threatening protests. He called for the CNRP to return to the reform talks with a mind toward flexibility.
“They always threaten to demonstrate when they speak,” he said.
“If it does happen, they must be responsible for the damage and the history,” Mr. Vun added. “This will divide the country into two parts.”
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)
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