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Exclusive Interview with Sam Rainsy after His One-on-One Meeting with PM Hun Sen

Q: Today you met with Prime Minister Hun Sen for several hours, what did you discuss with the prime minister during this meeting?

A: We talked about national issues that worry us: Cambodian sovereignty , poverty, land grabbing, illegal loggings, human rights, elections, etc.. Many many issues including democracy in Cambodia.

Q: Who initiated the meeting?

A: This meeting took place because we have taken steps toward each other, because of the green light from Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen. So I proposed to meet with him. And I am very happy because this meeting created a new culture in Cambodia and that is a culture of discussion to find solutions to Cambodia's problems, a culture that puts aside personal disputes between individuals. If we put aside personal issues and tackle national issues in the spirit of mutual respect, it is useful for our nation. We have begun to implement this new culture. We see that it is useful and we will continue to meet like this in the future.

Q: Could you explain what is beneficial in the future?

A: It's beneficial. Mr. Hun Sen recognizes that we need to gather strength especially human resources, intellectual resources to build the country. We do it like other developed countries, democratic nations in the world where opposition parties and the government respect one another. They don't treat each other as enemies. And they always meet. The prime minister always meet with the president of the opposition party even if the opposition party and the government have different theories, different political agendas. However, whenever we face with big obstacle in developing the nation, whenever we need to solve national issues according to the national interests, we must meet to find a good solution for our nation.

Q: Did you meet with the prime minister one-on-one or was there anyone else present?

A: It was a one-to-one meeting between Samdech and I, Sam Rainsy. Only the two of us.

Q: How long did you two meet? A: We met from 9:30 am to 1 pm. That was over 3 hours.

Q: Mr. Sam Rainsy, do you have plan to meet with FUNCINPEC President Norodom Ranariddh and when you meet, will you be talking about similar issues or different ones?

A: Yes, I am requesting a meeting with Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh because he is the national assembly president. I need to have a solution in the national assembly, especially to allow the Sam Rainsy lawmakers to have proper roles in the various committees in the parliament. And there are a number of issues in the parliament that need to find proper solutions with Samdech Krom Preah. The meeting will be carried out with the same spirits as the meeting with Samdech Hun Sen.

Q: There is sort of an accusation, or some mentioning that the opposition party has softened its stance toward the ruling parties. How do you respond to the speculation that the opposition party could join the government next term, or even sooner?

A: First of all, let me confirm that this softening of stance by quoting a Khmer saying "What's so cheap with the hand and so noble with the mouth?". We respect each other, there's no loss, there's no gain. The nation will gain when we unite in time of need. Under the current situation, we have only raised the important issues to be discussed. As for the formula, we have not talked about it yet. At this point in time, we have not talked about joing the government.

Q: Do you have any regrets for the one year delay?

A: It's not too late, it's not over, it's not too early. One day we will implement a formula that's beneficial to the nation.

Q: Did the King or former King, have any roles in this meeting? Is the meeting a result of his majesty's advise for national reconciliation? Did the meeting take place because the international community wanted to see national unity? Or is it your initiative and PM Hun Sen's initiave?

A: This meeting shows our political maturity. If we have political maturity, we won't be angry, we don't fight like children. We won't consider personal issues as major issues. We consider national issues as important issues. We take our responsibility as political leaders to serve the interest of the country. Therefore, the initiative, the practice of the new culture come from us. We make our own decision. The international community has pushed us to follow the road to democracy, and we listen. But the final decision is made by Khmers and the Khmer people will impliment their own decisions.

Q: How much do you believe Prime Minister Hun Sen in his many promises during the meeting you have described as the benefits to our nation?

A: The road that we try to walk together is a new road, a new spirit, a new culture, a new habit. Whether it will lead to success or failure depends on our determination. If we continue to have high determination and high ideals as we have currently shown, and will continue to show it to the people in the future, I believe this road will bring victory, not victory for the Cambodian People's Party, not for the Sam Rainsy Party, not for Hun Sen, not for Sam Rainsy, but victory for the whole nation, victory in national construction, victory in bringing bright future to our future generations.

Q: Last question. What will you tell your supporters about this meeting with the Prime Minister?

A: The Sam Rainsy party activists, its members, and its supporters have all understood clearly that the stance of the Sam Rainsy party remain the same, its ideals are the same. The Sam Rainsy party will remain loyal to the nation and its people. The Sam Rainsy party still defend the poor and the victims always. Therefore, people clearly understand. But what we are showing right now is the change in the way we work, the way we communication with the government as an opposition party so that all Khmers are safe especially the party members in the districts and villages, so that they can serve the party fully effectively to prepare itself for the victory in the 2008 general elections.

Q: Thank you Mr. Sam Rainsy.

A: Thank you, Mr. Khemara.