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EU Council president to visit

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has announced that he will visit Cambodia on Friday and Saturday – just days after the European Parliament adopted a resolution lambasting Cambodia’s human rights record and threatening to suspend trade preferences on products linked to human rights abuses.

According to Van Rompuy’s schedule, posted to the European Council’s website, the former Belgian prime minister will arrive in Phnom Penh on Friday afternoon and hold an official meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, and will pay a courtesy call to National Assembly President Heng Samrin and lay a wreath at the Independence Monument in honour of the late King Father the next day.

The European Council – which is composed of the heads of state and government of EU members – is a body charged with setting the EU’s general political direction.

EU Ambassador to Cambodia Jean-Francois Cautain said that Van Rompuy’s meetings will “touch upon the relationship between the EU and Cambodia and will address a broad range of domestic and regional issues of interest to the EU”, but declined to elaborate on whether those issues would include those mentioned in last Friday’s European Parliament resolution.

Eang Vuthy, a representative for the fair development NGO Equitable Cambodia, said it was “very important for the EU to raise the issue with the government, and of course the government can give the feedback”.

“We’re hearing already that the government is saying that EU is biased,” he continued.  “The EU should give a response to this.” Vuthy went on to point out that human rights agreements already existed between the EU and Cambodia – notably in the EU-Cambodia Co-operation Framework Agreement and the “Everything But Arms” trade pact.

This week’s trip, said Vuthy, offers a sterling opportunity for the EU to encourage the royal government to play by its own rules, “because Cambodia is a country that has ratified international law and agreed to respect people’s rights”.  

“You can’t avoid this obligation,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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