The Chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission of Foreign Affairs Chheang Vun told Manfred Grund on Monday that the German parliament would regret the EU withdrawing Cambodia’s access to its unilateral preferential “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme.
Chheang Vun met with German lawmaker Grund to strengthen parliamentary-level relations between the two nations. He said on Tuesday that the German parliament played an important role in the European Parliament.
He had also recently met with a French lawmaker in Phnom Penh in an attempt to explain the reality of Cambodia’s situation to the EU through the European Parliament.
The European Commission last month launched the official process to temporarily suspend Cambodia’s access to EBA.
It cited evidence of “serious and systematic violations of core human rights and labour rights in Cambodia, in particular of the rights to political participation as well as of the freedoms of assembly, expression and association”.
Vun explained to Grund that Cambodia had experienced many years of hardship through civil wars brought about by cold war geopolitics.
After the Untac-organised first national elections of 1993, Cambodia “could walk”, he said, and after the Win-win policy of Hun Sen, Cambodia “could run”.
“The EU contributed to making Cambodia capable of running. But now it wants to make Cambodia fall. The EU should not use EBA to hold Cambodia hostage."
“I told [Grund] that EBA, which is a trade tool, should not be used as a weapon to kill Cambodian people. The decision of the EU Commissioner for Trade was unfair."
“The EU is signing Free Trade Agreements with Vietnam, Thailand with Singapore, and EBA was granted to [the communist] Lao People’s Democratic Republic."
“You should look at these countries . . . are they democratic countries like the EU wants? Did they have an election like in Cambodia? Grund was surprised,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Vun was using the possibility of people’s hardship against Germany as the EU considers withdrawing EBA.
“Vun is trying to hold Germany to account for any suffering of the Cambodian people as a result of the EU’s eventual withdrawal of EBA, while the Cambodian leadership itself has no accountability at all for it when it is refusing to honour its human rights obligations under the preferential agreement with the EU,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Grund could bring the real situation in Cambodia to Germany’s Bundestag and subsequently to the EU Commission.
But he questioned whether it would have any effect in swaying the EU Commission’s decision.
He said if the European Parliament could not stop the Commission from withdrawing EBA, it would be a mistake on the part of EU member states in being careless in protecting Cambodia’s achievements over the past 20 years.
“The achievements would be undone because they did not try to understand the real situation in Cambodia from all angles, and they would regret the move in the future,” he said.