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Election Reform Group Shut Out of Political Talks

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, second from right, shakes hands with the main opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, left, of Cambodia National Rescue Party, as Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, second from left, looks on after a meeting in Senate headquarter, file photo.

A coalition of election reform proponents says it has not been allowed to attend talks between the ruling party and opposition.

The Electoral Reform Alliance, comprised of various civil society organizations, had requested its representatives be present in meetings between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party, but that request has so far been ignored.

“We have never received proper and detailed information about what the two parties are doing,” Soun Yuthyia, legal officer for the election-monitoring group Comfrel, told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s always a closed-door meeting, with no clear set date, and no transparency or participation.”

The two parties are meant to be working on electoral reforms that include a new National Election Committee and revamped registration and voting procedures, as part of a political deal struck in July that ended a yearlong political deadlock.

Rescue Party lawmaker Yem Ponhearith said the opposition has always welcomed input from civil society but has not formally replied to their request. “We’ve talked with them, but just haven’t written them an official letter,” he said.

CPP officials could not immediately be reached for comment.