By Daniel Quinlan | @danieljquinlan
PHNOM PENH- Cambodia’s political deadlock is close to resolution according to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Addressing the press at the CNRP party headquarters on Thursday he said while there was not yet a comprehensive agreement the two sides had moved forward on “several important points”.
“There is one remaining point but I think it will be resolved in the near future,” he said, adding, “It is a matter of days or at most weeks. So I remain cautiously optimistic”.
The outstanding point is the timing of the next election, which the opposition wants brought forward. Rainsy said the CPP accepts the election should be held in February of 2018, 5 months before they are currently scheduled, but “this is not enough, we want the election to be earlier”.
The opposition had previously demanded mid-term elections be held in early 2016.
Hun Sen had said in a speech that an agreement would be signed on Friday but Rainsy dismissed this saying any agreement would require Kem Sokha, the party’s deputy leader, who is currently in the United States.
Later Hun Sen made comments accusing Kem Sokha of holding up the agreement.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia, Kem Sokha said, “this is the same strategy to split me and Sam Rainsy. Any decision must comply with the party’s regulations. Any decision must be made by me and Sam Rainsy”.
The CNRP was formed before the last election as a merging of Kem Soka’s Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party. The united opposition contested the closest election in years, which they claim they only lost due to massive vote rigging and fraud.
Ou Virak, chairman of the board of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said “any split would not be because of Hun Sen but because of the CNRP themselves, or Kem Sekha and Sam Rainsy, because the two have not got a system in place were they can make decisions democratically.”
The other details of the deal remain uncertain but would involve reform of the Nation Election Commission (NEC), which the opposition views as biased towards the government.
When asked about other issues, such as the leadership of the National Assembly, Rainsy said “I cannot confirm that, but I can tell you that this is not the point, this is not the stumbling block. The stumbling block now is the date of the election.”
Earlier in the week Hen Sen had threatened Rainsy with arrest in a speech, apparently to pressure the opposition leader prior to their Wednesday phone conversation.
Responding to a question about the threat, Rainsy said, “we are trying to solve national issues but if anybody, any party wants to arrest me I would welcome it,” adding “ [tomorrow] in the afternoon I will be in Siem Reap province so they can find me, arrest me, put me in jail, I am ready, no problem.”
During the deadlock the opposition called for the end of the Hun Sen regime and drew on the Arab spring for inspiration. Any deal may be a difficult sell to hardline supporters that want to see the ‘Hun Sen regime’ overthrown.
“It could be a hard sell but it won’t be a problem if Kem Sekha and Sam Rainsy are both on board,” said Ou Virek.