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EU delegates sit down with gov’t, then CNRP

A visiting group of European Union parliamentarians yesterday hashed out issues ranging from election reform to so-called blood sugar in separate meetings with representatives of the opposition, the ruling party, the Ministry of Interior and others, officials said.

According to Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Prum Sokha, the EU assured Cambodia of its support, while Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, in turn, assured the EU that Cambodia’s “post-election issues” would be worked out.

“The most important thing the EU stressed to the deputy prime minister was that even if they’re facing a global financial crisis, the EU will continue to help Cambodia,” Sokha said. “The EU also asked about the post-election issues, and [Kheng] explained that everything would be resolved in accordance with the law.”

Electoral reform was also the chief subject of discussion in the delegation’s meeting with the Cambodia National Rescue Party, public affairs head Mu Sochua said yesterday.

“The main topic was the formula that the CNRP was proposing to ensure the independence and neutrality of the [National Election Committee],” Sochua said. “One, that it is a body that has a constitutional status. Two, that the members of the NEC receive two-thirds of the vote from the members of parliament . . . Third, we want a set date for the next election [to take place] before the end of this term.”

The opposition also raised the issue of Cambodia’s controversial sugar plantations, which benefit from a preferential trade agreement with Europe despite their involvement in multiple long-running land disputes.

Though the trade scheme can be suspended if products are found to be linked to human rights abuses, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said recently that the alleged abuses didn’t warrant investigation.

“[The delegation] assured us that the stance of the parliamentarians in the EU is not the same as the trade commissioner,” Sochua said yesterday.

In January, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling for the bloc to act on assessments revealing abuses in the Kingdom’s sugar industry.

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