Cambodian PM, opposition leader hold crisis talks, protests continue

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and main opposition leader Sam Rainsy held talks Monday to resolve the country's post-election crisis, with opposition supporters continuing their protests for a second day in the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen of the ruling Cambodian People's Party and a seven-member team agreed with Sam Rainsy's group from the Cambodia National Rescue Party to find a peaceful solution and create "a mechanism to reform the next election," a day after a man was killed in CNRP-led mass demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters protested in the capital, demanding an "appropriate solution" and an investigation into alleged election fraud.

One man was killed during the demonstrations, with the opposition party condemning the incident and urging authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The two political rivals agreed during the meeting to respect King Norodom Sihamoni's desire for a peaceful resolution, following a statement released earlier Monday by the monarch urging all Cambodians and the authorities to refrain from violence.

Both parties agreed to "continue to meet on all levels in order to resolve the crisis."

The CPP said its lawmakers will attend the first National Assembly session regardless of whether the session will be joined by members of the CNRP.

The CNRP had threatened to boycott the first session of the new assembly scheduled to be held Sept. 23 should the government refuse to set up an independent committee to probe the alleged election irregularities.

The CPP's spokesman Prak Sokhon said, "The setting up of such a committee is contradictory to our laws...The National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council have already made the decision to give 68 seats to the CPP and 55 to the CNPR...that decision cannot be revoked."

The CNRP responded, "We still have time from now until Sept. 23 to find measures that are acceptable for both parties...The CNRP still demands the setting up of an independent committee to look into the election irregularities."

The CNRP's spokesman Yim Sovann went on to say that his party "has urged the interior ministry to look into who is wrong and who is right in order to get justice for the (dead) victim."

The ruling party said the ministry has launched an investigation into the man's death.

According to a CNRP statement issued earlier Monday, neither the party nor its supporters were involved in any violence.

Commenting on the killing, the spokesman of the National Military Police Kheng Tito told Kyodo News the police had "only" used tear gas, batons and smoke grenades.

"We don't know how that man was killed. The authorities are investigating the case," he said, adding the overall situation on Monday was calm, with demonstrations continuing in a peaceful manner.

King Norodom Sihamoni on Monday conveyed his condolences to the family of the victim in a statement.

The official results of the July 28 election show the CPP won 68 seats in the 123-seat assembly. The CNRP, which secured 55 seats, insists it would have won the election if it was conducted fairly.

The start of the three days of protests on Sunday went off peacefully except for the afternoon incident in which security forces fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters after they threw rocks at police stopping them from removing a barbwire barricade near the Royal Palace.

Following Monday's meeting, the CNRP said it will discuss what its next move should be if its demands are not met. The party had said earlier that more mass demonstrations would be staged across the country if the vote-rigging allegations are not addressed in an appropriate manner.