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Cambodia's Opposition Threatens Nationwide General Strike

Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), greets his supporters. September 17, 2013.
Cambodia's opposition is threatening a general strike as it expands its protest of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen's disputed election victory.

Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said on Wednesday tuat the one-day strike would be a response to what he called a "constitutional coup" by the government.

"In the air there is an idea of a general strike. So, the whole country for one day, we will call for a strike. All factories, all civil servants, all shopkeepers will stop working that day," said Rainsy.

The opposition refuses to take part in parliament unless the government agrees to an independent probe of alleged fraud during the July election that returned the long-ruling Cambodian People's Party to power.

Rainsy said the CNRP will not cooperate "in any manner" with the legislature or government, arguing that its leverage is "strongest now outside the parliament." He said more protests were possible if the ruling party "continues to ignore the will of the Cambodian people."

His comments came a day after Hun Sen was reelected by parliament, which convened without the boycotting opposition members on Monday. The CNRP says opening parliament without the required number of opposition members is illegal.

The government has said it is open to talks with the opposition, but refuses to agree to an outside probe of the vote.

The opposition won 55 seats in the July 28 elections, compared to 68 seats for the ruling party. It was the worst election performance in 15 years for Hun Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985.

Despite the gains, the CNRP says it was denied an outright victory due to widespread vote rigging. The government denies the charge.

Protests against the election results turned violent this month when a demonstrator was shot and killed during a clash with security forces.

Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy held unsuccessful talks last week in an effort to end the crisis.