ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Cambodian political rivals edge towards agreement
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's two main political parties said on Tuesday they were nearing an agreement to end a political crisis, as the opposition ended a three-day mass protest over hotly disputed elections.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 28 years, held talks with opposition leader Sam Rainsy for a second straight day in the wake of violent clashes at the weekend in which one civilian was shot dead and several wounded.
The talks were the third in four days between 61-year-old Hun Sen, who has vowed to rule until he is 74, and Rainsy, who returned from self-imposed exile in July after a royal pardon for criminal convictions which he contends were politically motivated.
"We have come closer to finding a solution to the problem facing the country," opposition spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters after the latest talks.
He said more discussions were needed to reach an agreement before parliament convenes at the beginning of next week.
Ruling party spokesman Prak Sokhon said the two sides were "on the path to find a joint resolution".
On Monday Hun Sen and Rainsy, a French-educated former banker, agreed to heed the king's call for an end to the violence, to set up a mechanism to bring about election reform in the future and to continue negotiations, according to a joint statement that gave few details.
The two sides, however, remained at odds over the opposition's demand for the creation of an independent "truth committee" to investigate Hun Sen's controversial election victory in July.
Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party has threatened to boycott the opening of parliament next Monday unless the alleged poll irregularities are addressed.
"We will not betray the will of the people," Rainsy told about 10,000 protesters on Tuesday, the last of three days of mass rallies in the capital.
"Democratic forces will vanquish acts of dictatorship," he added.
The opposition blamed the authorities for the death of a protester who was shot dead during a clash in Phnom Penh on Sunday, on the fringes of a mass demonstration that drew an estimated 20,000 people demanding an independent probe into the vote.
Security forces fired smoke grenades, tear gas and water cannon at rock-throwing protesters.
International rights groups accused the security forces of firing live ammunition -- an allegation denied by the authorities.
"There must be an immediate and impartial investigation into the killing of this man, and full disclosure about why the security forces resorted to lethal force," said Amnesty International deputy Asia director Isabelle Arradon.
Organisers of the demonstration said a 35-year-old monk at Tuesday's rally had poured petrol on himself while on stage in an apparent attempt to set himself on fire, but was stopped by onlookers.
"He is very emotional and he wants a solution to be reached more quickly," senior opposition party official Ho Vann told AFP.
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