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July 16, 2014

Cambodian Opposition Rejects Further Talks After Arrest of 6 Members

by VOA News

Cambodia's opposition says political negotiations with the ruling party cannot take place while six of its members are being held in jail on charges of insurrection and incitement to violence.

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Vice President Kem Sokha on Wednesday demanded the release of the lawmakers-elect, saying talks with the ruling party are impossible while they remain in jail.  

“We cannot sit down and negotiate at an equal level because our people who are in jail are in leadership positions. They are members of our permanent committee," said Sokha. "They've arrested and imprisoned our members of the permanent committee, so do we have to go and negotiate in prison or what, because they have their voices in the negotiation, too?"

He added that mass demonstrations could be held to demand the release of the detained party members.

The opposition has been holding talks with the ruling Cambodian People's Party over election reforms following polls last year that the CNRP say were marred by voter fraud. Opposition members elected to parliament, such as those arrested Tuesday, have refused to take their seats in protest.

More than 50 people were injured in Tuesday's incident, many of them district security guards, when a peaceful opposition protest turned violent.

The violence took place at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park, which has been closed to rallies since pro-opposition demonstrations turned violent in January, leading to the deaths of at least four people, as well as a ban on public assembly.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.