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Political Rivals Meet Following Weekend Violence

Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy meet for the first time after election on Sept 14, 2013. (Photo by Heng Reaksmey VOA Khmer)
Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy meet for the first time after election on Sept 14, 2013. (Photo by Heng Reaksmey VOA Khmer)
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s feuding political parties on Monday reached an agreement to establish election reforms, including the controversial National Election Committee, following a weekend of demonstrations that included violent clashes with police and left one man dead.

The five-hour meeting, held at the National Assembly, included Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of his Cambodian People’s Party, and his political rival, Sam Rainsy, president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Both sides vowed to curb post-election violence in the short term, with details of election reforms to be discussed at another date. It remains unclear whether the opposition will go through with the boycott of a Sept. 28 National Assembly session, which could prevent the formation of a new government.

“It depends on the will of the people,” Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters after the meeting. “We have seven more days to find a resolution to the problem that can be accepted by all parties.”

The CPP did not relent on opposition calls for an independent investigation into irregularities, which the opposition says cost them the election. The National Election Committee, widely criticized as biased toward the ruling party, announced a CPP victory earlier this month, with 68 of 123 National Assembly seats.

CPP member Prek Sokhonn told reporters Monday that the NEC and the Constitutional Council, which oversees election complaint appeals, had both made their decisions on the elections and that the results were final.

Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst, said the ruling party likely rejected the proposal for an investigation for fear of what it would find. But he welcomed the commitment by both sides to mitigate the violence, following weekend clashes.

Police clashed with residents in Phnom Penh at the Monivong Bridge on Sunday, which had been blockaded during opposition demonstrations. A 30-year-old construction worker named Mao Sokchan was shot in the head during the clash. His wife, Cheav Sokvy, told VOA Khmer her husband had not been demonstrating.

Rescue Party member Ho Vann said the violence came after major roads were blocked by police, angering motorists. Some of the motorists attempted to tear down barricades, resulting in a pushback from police.

Kheng Tito, a spokesman for the national police, said authorities had exercised restraint but had been forced to respond in kind to violence from civilians.

More than 10,000 opposition supporters gathered at Freedom Park on Monday, rejecting the election results and Sunday’s violence.