Still Room for Negotiation, PM’s Aide Says

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen took a step Monday toward renewing coalition talks with the opposition, saying negotiation is still possible, according to a top aide.

“The door for negotiation to find a proper solution to the deadlock is still not closed,” senior Hun Sen aide Prak Sokhonn told reporters outside the Council of Ministers.

Hun Sen reportedly made the comments during the second prime minister’s meeting with the newly appointed French ambassador to Cambodia, Andre Jean Libourel.

The statement comes one day after a meeting between King Norodom Sihanouk and the Japa­nese state secretary for foreign affairs, Nobutaka Machimura, reportedly produced the mon-arch’s commitment to chair another summit before he leaves the country.

The 75-year-old King has said he will leave Cambodia to seek medical treatment in Beijing in mid-November. The monarch has previously said chairing such a summit would be fruitless.

Funcinpec officials have dismissed Hun Sen’s Saturday offer of a legislative co-chairmanship as unconstitutional, saying they stand by their demand for the National Assembly presidency.

Machimura also said Monday that both he and the King would call for the opposition leaders to return to the country.

“The King wanted to convey his wishes to Prince [Norodom] Ranariddh, and possibly Sam Rainsy, to return to the country soon,” Machimura told reporters at the opening of a land mine awareness conference.

Sam Rainsy, president of the self-named party, and Funcinpec President Prince Ranariddh left the country Sept 25 after veiled threats against them in connection with the alleged attempt on Hun Sen’s life.

Machimura said later after a rice-donation ceremony that it is “amazing” that opposition leaders remain outside Cambodia.

“They have an obligation to return,” said Machimura, who is on a four-day trip here during which he has met with Hun Sen, CPP President Chea Sim and the King. “I don’t know if they are in danger, but at least Hun Sen said they were safe so I think it seems quite safe.”

Tol Lah, Funcinpec’s secretary-general, said Monday that the opposition wants improvements in the “general atmosphere” in Phnom Penh, but said he must consult with Prince Ranariddh before he can say if the Fun­cin­pec president will return for a party leaders’ summit.

“Rainsy has the right to be careful,” said Tol Lah. “Every time they create an incident they accuse, they [point] their finger at us.”

Opposition chiefs want to meet outside the country, where they feel their security is guaranteed. CPP leaders reject the idea, saying the deadlock is an internal problem.

Prak Sokhonn said that Hun Sen had asked Libourel to help downplay international attention to the political deadlock.

He also reiterated that the government would continue to function and said opposition leaders should return to fulfill their obligations.

(Additional reporting by Nanaho Sawano, Marc Levy and The Associated Press)


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