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Analysts Sift Through Meaning of Political Deal


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, talks with the main Opposition Party leader Sam Rainsy, left, of Cambodia National Rescue Party, after their meeting in Senate headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 22, 2012.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, talks with the main Opposition Party leader Sam Rainsy, left, of Cambodia National Rescue Party, after their meeting in Senate headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 22, 2012.

Analysts say Monday’s political deal resolved a deadlock between Cambodia’s dueling political factions but fell short of the opposition’s original goals—and still leaves room for problems in the future.

Ou Virak, a board member at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Monday’s deal was not surprising, given that it was mostly discussed back in April.

“But what impresses me very much is that … supporters of the [Rescue Party] will see the [party] as weak, especially because after their activists were arrested, they agreed,” he said.

Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, said Monday’s agreement marks the beginning of “a long journey,” one that should now include a reform of the constitution, election law, voting procedures, work practices and other elements of the electoral process.

Some Rescue Party supporters remain unhappy with the compromise, particularly because methods undertaken by the CPP following last year’s election were seen as improper, he said. “So the environment of the country is not stable.”

It remains to be seen whether the CPP is ready to work in the new environment, especially in relaxing the administration’s restrictions on public assembly and free speech, he said.

Meanwhile, there is still opportunity for political problems, analysts said. That’s because if the new method of approving the NEC—with four members selected from each party and one agreed on by both—fails, then the old method will prevail, and that favors the CPP.

That said, any agreement is better than no agreement at this point, said political analyst Chea Vannath. “Time can heal and bring violence back to peace and reconciliation,” she said.

And the agreement will also allow the international community to cooperate with Cambodia again, said Puthea Hang, who leads the monitoring group Nicfec.

Indeed, the international community widely welcomed Monday’s deal, with words of encouragement from China, Japan, the US and others.

“The government of Japan will continue to pay close attention to the situation in Cambodia, and support Cambodia’s efforts toward reform and nation-building,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement typical of those from other countries.

Surya Subedi, the UN’s special human rights envoy to Cambodia, welcomed the deal, but he said it “only marks the beginning of the true work of reforming state institutions.”

US Embassy spokesman John Simmons said the US welcomed the deal. “We are hopeful that these developments enable both parties to work together for the promotion of reform and the advancement of democracy in Cambodia,” he said.

Cheng Hong Bo, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said the consensus was a positive sign. “We think it will be useful for the stability of developments in Cambodia,” he said.

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