Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cambodian Political Rivals Hold Fresh Talks

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, second from right, Sam Rainsy, left, of Cambodia National Rescue Party, and Sam Rainsy's Deputy President, center, walk out after their meeting in Senate headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, July 22, 2012. Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Tuesday that they had agreed upon a joint political solution to end the crisis. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Jul 22, 2014, 1:14 AM ET

Leaders of Cambodia's ruling and opposition parties met Tuesday for talks aimed at ending a yearlong political deadlock since last year's contentious election.

Eight representatives from the two camps, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, met in a closed-door meeting at the Senate office in Cambodia's capital amid tightened security, as more than 100 local and foreign journalists waited outside.

Both parties said in a joint statement released to the media Monday that Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy will hold talks for the third time in the past year to "defuse political tension."

Lawmakers from Sam Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party have boycotted their seats in the Parliament since last July's election, which they alleged was rigged, and are demanding reforms and new elections.

The talks came after the arrest last week of seven opposition lawmakers and another party activist after violence broke out when party members tried to stage a rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh. It is expected they will be released after the two parties reach an agreement.

The CNRP said Monday that the talks will discuss the agreement they reached in principle in April, including conditions under which a new electoral commission will be set up with the approval of the two parties, local elections to be held in February 2017 and the next legislative elections which are set for early 2018.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades and, despite Cambodia being formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents. A strong showing by Sam Rainsy's party in last year's polls posed the strongest challenge to Hun Sen in years.

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