Cambodian opposition threatens general strike

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s opposition party on Wednesday threatened a nationwide general strike to protest what it claims was a rigged election and the illegitimate return to power of authoritarian leader Hun Sen.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he is considering calling a one-day strike for factory workers, civil servants and shopkeepers unless the ruling party agrees to an independent probe of electoral fraud and a program of reforms.

He said the opposition will continue its boycott of parliament, which opened Monday, until its demands are met.

“We will not cooperate in any manner with the present National Assembly and with the present government unless there are guarantees that there will be an investigation committee to investigate the election irregularities and to find justice for the voters whose will has been distorted, and provided also that there is a program of reforms that both parties can agree upon,” Sam Rainsy told reporters.

Official results of the July 28 polls gave the ruling party 68 seats in parliament, compared to 55 for the opposition. The opposition says it was cheated out of victory and has staged several mass demonstrations against the election results.

Rainsy said the party would announce its plans for further demonstrations in the next few days.

“In the air, there is the idea of general strike,” Rainsy said. “So the whole country for one day will hold a strike. All factories, all civil servants, all shopkeepers will stop working that day – this is one possible idea.”

Hun Sen has ruled for 28 years. The 68 lawmakers from his ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Tuesday elected him to another five-year term as Prime Minister.

Rainsy said that land grabbing and deforestation would be two of the key issues the CPP would need to agree to address before the opposition would agree to join the assembly.

“If we join now without having anything concrete immediately prior to joining, it will be totally useless, because once we have joined we will be powerless because the CPP would control both the government and the National Assembly,” he said. “I think our leverage is strongest now outside the parliament, continuing to denounce the constitutional coup and to delegitimize the current government rather than joining the National Assembly.”

Rainsy also called on the international community and foreign companies to stop engaging with the one-party government and end investment in the country.

“We will conduct a worldwide campaign to delegitimize this government, which is the result of a constitutional coup and which does not represent the Cambodian people,” he said.

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