Cambodian rivals to hold new talks

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's ruling and opposition parties said Monday their leaders will hold a fresh round of talks to end the yearlong political deadlock after last year's contentious election.

Both parties said in a joint statement released to the media Monday that Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy will hold talks for the third time in the past year to "defuse political tension."

Lawmakers from Sam Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party have boycotted their seats in the parliament since last July's election, which they alleged was rigged, and are demanding reforms and new elections.

Tuesday's talks, to take place at the senate office in Cambodia's capital, come after the arrest last week of seven opposition lawmakers and another party activist after violence broke out when party members tried to stage a rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.

The CNRP said Monday that the talks will discuss the principle agreement they reached in April, including conditions under which a new electoral commission will be set up with the approval of the two parties, local elections to be held in February 2017 and the next legislative elections which are set for early 2018.

Mr Rainsy returned to Cambodia on Saturday, a few days after the arrests of his eight party colleagues, who were charged with insurrection and other offenses that carry jail terms of up to 30 years.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades and, despite Cambodia being formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents. Mr Rainsy's party strong showing in last year's polls posed the strongest challenge to Hun Sen in years.

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