Interview: ‘We have the good will to find a solution to the current political tension.’

With the royal pardon of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha and his elevation to party president, the CNRP takes on a somewhat different look for the upcoming elections.

While the party has altered the roles of Kem Sokha and former CNRP president Sam Rainsy, it's unclear what that means for the opposition party as it girds for local elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018.

King Norodom Sihamoni's pardon -- acting on a Prime Minister Hun Sen's request-- would appear to signal a new era of cooperation between the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the CNRP. But there are still a number of opposition figures in jail and Sam Rainsy is still barred from entering the country and he faces various legal charges.

Senior CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhai Eang talked to RFA Khmer Service journalist Zakariya Tin on Monday about the changes during the Live-Interview on Radio Free Asia and TV show.

RFA: Please elaborate on the recent decision for the replacement.

Eng Chhai Eang: Currently Sam Rainsy is the Minority Leader and the President of CNRP National Assembly Members. Today in the CNRP's Standing Committee meeting with Sam Rainsy joining via telephone conference, the committee unanimously decided on the replacement. Kem Sokha is now the President of CNRP National Assembly Members. [CNRP lawmakers] Yim Sovann and Yem Ponhearith are deputies. Sam Rainsy remains the Minority Leader. The decision was made to facilitate the regular communication between members of parliament of both parties while Sam Rainsy is in exile.

RFA: Do you think the decision to pardon Kem Sokha but not Sam Rainsy is part of the CPP's strategy to divide the CNRP leaders?

Eng Chhai Eang: I don't wish to respond to that speculation. However, we are pleased with the royal pardon. We shall continue to stick to our set plan for change in the next elections.

RFA: What are the CNRP's next steps?

Eng Chhai Eang: There are so many things that the CNRP and CPP will have to discuss to resolve the issues that concern the national interest.

RFA: The CNRP's lawmakers have consistently indicated that they would like the issue of the jailed activists to be put on the table during their meetings with the CPP. Do you think the CPP will agree to that?

Eng Chhai Eang: You will have to ask the CPP for its position on that. However, we see some positive signs. When Kem Sokha was granted a royal pardon, this paved the way for the release of other jailed people. We have the good will to find a solution to the current political tension so that we can have free and fair elections in the coming years.

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