Channel NewsAsia

Cambodian political rivals to hold fresh talks over deadlock

Cambodia's prime minister and the leader of the opposition are set for their first face-to-face talks for nearly a year on Tuesday, their parties have said, in a bid to jolt the kingdom from its political stasis.

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's prime minister and the leader of the opposition are set for their first face-to-face talks for nearly a year on Tuesday, their parties have said, in a bid to jolt the kingdom from its political stasis. The opposition has boycotted parliament since elections last July, accusing the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of vote-rigging and calling for electoral reforms before fresh polls.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will meet with Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the two parties late Sunday. It will be their first meeting since September last year.

Rainsy cut short an overseas trip to return to Cambodia on Saturday amid an escalating crackdown on his party, including the arrest of eight CNRP politicians last week on insurrection charges. Analysts said the charges may have been an attempt by the ruling party to prod the opposition into ending its boycott.

"A top-level meeting between both parties leaders" was scheduled for Tuesday morning, according to the statement which added that the talks would try "to find a common political resolution".

Rainsy has previously called for new polls before the February 2018 date offered by Hun Sen. In a message posted on his Facebook page, Rainsy labelled Tuesday's meeting as "final talks".

Political analyst Chea Vannath said the meeting raised hopes of a "breakthrough" with the anniversary of the hotly disputed election looming. "Perhaps, they (Hun Sen and Rainsy) are now willing (to resolve) problem, that's why there are talks tomorrow," she said.

Hun Sen, 61, who has been in power for nearly three decades, is regularly criticised by campaigners for ignoring human rights and crushing dissent. Rights groups have denounced the "trumped-up" insurrection charges against the opposition politicians, who could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The arrests are linked to a violent demonstration on Tuesday last week against the closure of Phnom Penh's "Freedom Park" -- the capital's main designated protest site.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia