Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha, whom the prime minister last week threatened to imprison “forever,” has reached out to Interior Minister Sar Kheng to seek talks, a senior opposition lawmaker said on Monday.
Mr. Sokha has been hiding in the CNRP’s headquarters since May 26, when police tried to arrest him as part of a sex scandal being investigated by authorities, but he has not been touched since, with the opposition threatening mass protests if he is jailed.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks to reporters as he leaves a ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the national police in Phnom Penh in May. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said on Monday that he had been told by a colleague that Mr. Sokha had contacted Mr. Kheng, the head of the CPP in the National Assembly, to request talks to defuse the situation.
“There was a request for the top leaders [of the CNRP] to meet Sar Kheng when they arrive from overseas but we have not heard a positive response,” Mr. Chhay said, referring to a meeting of senior opposition officials in Manila last week.
“I believe it must have been Kem Sokha. I believe it was on the telephone,” he said. “I was informed about that but not in detail. Whether it was a message or a phone call, I don’t know clearly.”
Mr. Chhay referred further questions to Muth Chantha, the chief of Mr. Sokha’s cabinet, who could not be reached on Monday. However, a post on the CNRP vice president’s Facebook page said he had reached out to “leaders” of the CPP to ask for talks.
“We still demand negotiations between the two big parties in the Assembly. On this issue, we have thrown our hand out to contact the CPP’s leaders, but we have not yet heard a positive response,” it said.
Mr. Sokha’s daughter has said the CNRP will not agree to any deal that does not end the CPP’s persecution of CNRP activists through the legal system, while Prime Minister Hun Sen has said there can be no talks that may impact the independence of the courts.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Monday that he was unaware of any contacts made with Mr. Kheng.
“But if they want to talk, they should go to the National Assembly and suggest whatever they want,” Mr. Eysan said, adding that the CNRP would have to be careful in picking its issues.
“Their ‘political issues’ are only personal cases, so we would not agree with each other. If the CPP talks about that, it will impact on the court’s procedures.”
Separately, the Appeal Court on Monday morning rejected an entreaty from Mr. Sokha’s lawyers to end a series of court procedures that last month led to the arrest attempt over a failure to appear in court for questioning, said Khem Socheat, one of the lawyers.
The court rejected the lawyer’s claims that Mr. Sokha’s immunity from prosecution prevented his arrest until a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, which neither party holds in the 123-seat parliament, voted to strip him of the privilege.
“We will consider appealing to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Socheat said. “If they want to charge Kem Sokha, they need 82 seats to accept it.”
willemyns@cambodiadaily.com, odom@cambodiadaily.com
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