Cambodian leaders meet to end election results dispute as thousands protest

Anti-riot police fire tear gas as clashes erupt near the riverside on Sept. 15, 2013, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Credit: Nicolas Axelrod

The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy held a five-hour meeting Monday to discuss how to end a political standoff over the disputed results of the country’s July 28 election.

The meeting was prompted by clashes between police and opposition supporters in Phnom Penh on Sunday in which a 29-year-old man died and at least 10 people were injured. Some witnesses said the man was shot by a bullet fired by police, while others said a smoke canister hit him.

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in the capital again on Monday and said they would remain in the city’s Freedom Park through Tuesday evening.

In the election, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won 68 assembly seats – a 22 seat loss from 2008 – and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 seats.

More from GlobalPost: Ruling party wins Cambodian election — but opposition makes surprising gains

The opposition claims there was voter registration fraud and is threatening to boycott parliament's first session on Sept. 23 unless an independent committee is appointed to investigate.

During Monday’s meeting, the two sides agreed to set up a committee to reform the election process in the future and to make sure protests are peaceful.

"We have different views and different perceptions, but we are Cambodians — we have the same blood, so we do not consider each other enemies," opposition party spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters after the meeting ended.

However, the prime minister’s party did not agree to an investigation into the July 28 election. "The Cambodian People's Party cannot walk backward and establish an independent committee (to investigate the results)," Prak Sokhon, a ruling party spokesman, said. "The election body and the Constitutional Council have already made the decision."

The two leaders will hold a second day of talks on Tuesday.

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