Cambodian opposition party to boycott first session of parliament

Cambodia's opposition said Friday it will boycott the first session of parliament slated for Monday despite King Norodom Sihamoni's calls to attend it for the sake of national unity.

Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and his deputy Kem Sokha told reporters that the party's 55 elected lawmakers will be absent unless their demands for justice are met and an investigation into voting irregularities is launched.

Sam Rainsy said his party is ready to hold more talks with the ruling Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to seek a political compromise including a balance of power.

"There is no need to rush for a meeting on Sept. 23. I'd like to send a message through the media that the leaders of the CNRP are ready for negotiations with the CPP, even if we have talks day and night, for the sake of the national interest and for a balance of power," Sam Rainsy said.

He suggested the CPP and CNRP share responsibilities based on mutual trust and cooperation and that a "checks and balances system" should be established and implemented, in a reference to the leadership of the National Assembly.

The CNRP also demanded reforms of the National Election Committee and the judicial system.

On Sept. 14, the king held a meeting with the leaders of the two parties, inviting them to the opening session of the new parliament which he will chair.

The CPP, which was announced by the NEC as the winner of the general election, has confirmed its participation, with lawmaker Cheam Yeap saying that all 68 parliamentarians will attend the first session as planned regardless of a CNRP boycott.

Sam Rainsy said that if parliament convenes as planned without the CNRP's participation it would violate the constitution. Parliament would then have to be called "a CPP parliament not the National Assembly," he said.

Earlier this week, Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy held two rounds of substantial talks but failed to narrow their differences.

The CNRP claims it would have won the general election on July 28 if it had been conducted fairly.

The official results show the CPP won 68 seats in the 123-seat assembly and the CNRP won 55.