Cambodia National Rescue Party to End Legislative Boycott

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party plans to end its legislative boycott on Wednesday when CNRP lawmakers on the National Assembly's committees return to work, party officials said on Tuesday.

Speaking at CNRP's Phnom Penh headquarters the party's acting chief Kem Sokha told supporters that opposition lawmakers on the Permanent Standing Committee and the legislature's five commissions will attend the legislative meetings on Wednesday.

The Standing Committee is a powerful panel in the Cambodian National Assembly as it doles out legislative assignments for the commissions to consider and runs the assembly when it is not in session.

In November the Standing Committee approved the arrest of CNRP President Sam Rainsy's following a court order for his arrest on a seven-year-old defamation conviction. Following the committee vote, National Assembly President Heng Samrin stripped Sam Rainsy of his role as a lawmaker, removing his parliamentary immunity.

By deciding to go back to the legislature, the CNRP may be signaling that it is ready to deal with Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

The two parties have been locked in a political stalemate as Cambodian authorities have stripped several lawmakers of their legislative immunity and put lawmakers on trial for a variety of offenses, many of which appear to be aimed at undercutting the CNRP before the local elections in 2017 and the national elections in 2018.

While the lawmakers plan to return to work, it is unclear if any of the opposition party's demands will be met.

Kem Sokha is still threatened with arrest in the government's wide-ranging probe into his alleged affair with a young hair dresser, other opposition lawmakers are still in jail and CNRP President Sam Rainsy is still living abroad as it is likely he would be jailed if he returned to Cambodia.

He didn't make any promises, but Kem Sokha told CNRP activists and the relatives of imprisoned activists that he is hopeful that all jailed activists will be released soon after the political tension is defused.

Earlier this month Hun Sen refused to negotiate with the CNRP saying: "If I ever enter into such negotiations I will be nothing short of a dog."

While Hun Sen threatened, he also offered an olive branch when he declared a cease fire in the rhetorical war between the opposition and the CNRP for the Pchum Ben festival.

Hun Sen also appears to be prepared to allow the National Assembly to become the forum for discussions between the warring parties.

The decision to end the boycott and Hun Sen's recent actions appear to ratchet down the political tension in Cambodia.

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