Cambodian rivals edge closer to deal over disputed poll

Reuters
Supporters of CNRP offer food to Buddhist monks during the last day of protest at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh
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Supporters of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) offer food to Buddhist monks during the last day …

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's main opposition party said a deal to end the stalemate over July's disputed general election could be near and a rally by its supporters went ahead on Tuesday without the violence seen at the weekend, when one man was shot dead.

Prime Minister Hun Sen met opposition leader Sam Rainsy for a second day of talks and officials said they had agreed to look at reforms to institutions, but the long-serving premier still rejected the idea of an independent inquiry into the July poll.

"We've come closer and closer to a solution. We expressed our opinions, we told each other about our objective to reform national institutions," said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

"But there are so many problems that have been around for so long, so we need time to discuss them," he added.

The opposition has said it will try to paralyse the legislature by boycotting the opening session of parliament on September 23.

More than 10,000 of its supporters gathered in a Phnom Penh park on Tuesday for the final day of a three-day rally to protest at what they see as the rigging of the election. Some had again defied the authorities by camping there overnight.

Politicians and party activists lined up to denounce the National Election Committee (NEC) and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which was awarded victory in the election with 68 seats in the 123-member parliament to the CNRP's 55.

After talks on Monday between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy, officials said they had agreed to look at how future general elections are held.

Clashes had broken out in several places in Phnom Penh on Sunday as supporters of the CNRP tried to remove razor-wire barricades and refused to limit their protest to the designated site in the park, called Freedom Park.

The man who died was a bystander rather than a protester. Rights groups have blamed the security forces for the shooting but the police have denied using live ammunition.

Hun Sen, 61, has been the dominant force in Cambodia for three decades and has taken credit for steering the country away from a chaotic past towards economic growth and development.

But many urban Cambodians born after the 1975-1979 "Killing Fields" rule of the Khmer Rouge see little appeal in his iron-fisted approach and have become disillusioned by land evictions, labour disputes and corruption.

(Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)

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