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Sam Rainsy Defends “Culture of Dialogue” With Ruling Cambodian People’s Party

VOA Khmer Service broadcaster Kimseng Men (left) interviews Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy

VOA Khmer Service broadcaster Kimseng Men (left) interviews Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy

In an exclusive interview on May 13, Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer that Cambodia is at a turning point where politicians have to adopt the “culture of dialogue.” He said that this will ensure that safety, dignity, and freedom of expression for all politicians must be protected.

“There should not be harassment just because they have differing opinions,” Rainsy said in the interview VOA broadcaster Kimseng Men. “There should not be an intimidation and threat of imprisonment, and in the past even assassination. This culture of killing each other must be stopped and we have to adopt a new culture, which is the culture of dialogue because it’s peaceful and truly democratic.”

Rainsy believes the time is right for his party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, which he heads, to sit down with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and discuss a number of issues, including judicial reform, corruption, immigration, and land grabbing.

Rainsy is in the United States to strengthen backing for his party. Some of his supporters in the U.S. have criticized his outreach to the ruling party and worry that it may damage Cambodia’s democratic process.

In spite of reports of possible irregularities in the 2013 general election, Rainsy remains optimistic that the recently created National Election Committee will organize free and fair local elections in 2017 and the general election in 2018. Four of the committee’s nine members were selected from Rainsy’s own party.

“This culture of dialogue is not yet stable because we’ve just started it,” Rainsy said, “but we will try our best to promote it, to go down to the local level so that it can be a new practice and mindset to replace the old ones, which were wars, fighting, conflicts, and killings, which have destroyed our country. Therefore, all Khmer should understand this.”

VOA Khmer is a 24/7/365 multimedia news operation that reaches its audience in Cambodia by radio, television, and the InternetAccording to a 2014 survey, more than 18 percent of Cambodians listen weekly to VOA radio on AM, shortwave or on affiliate FM stations and 8.5 percent watch VOA weekly on TV.