Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - EU warned as delegation lands

EU warned as delegation lands

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An EU delegation landed in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to discuss Cambodia's Everything But Arms access. Hong Menea

EU warned as delegation lands

Civil society groups and associations released a public statement on Tuesday expressing concern over the EU starting the process to withdraw Cambodia’s access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme, as a delegation from the bloc landed in Phnom Penh the same day.

Senior officials from the European External Action Service and the EU Directorate-General for Trade are in Cambodia on a two-day visit to the Kingdom over Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the review and monitoring process included in the EBA withdrawal procedure, which was launched last month.

“As defenders of fundamental rights and labour rights, we fully understand the European Union’s position and decision. However, we are deeply worried that the suspension of EBA will directly and negatively impact Cambodian people’s welfare and livelihoods,” the statement said.

It said the withdrawal of EBA access could be avoided if the government took appropriate steps to respect its obligations to the people as enshrined in the Constitution, and in particular specific articles outlining Cambodia’s commitment to relevant international declarations, including the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We, the undersigned . . . call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to take concrete measures to restore the civil society space in Cambodia and guarantee the protection and fulfilment of human rights and labour rights to ensure Cambodian people’s welfare and livelihoods,” the statement said.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said recent moves taken by the government – such as the arrest of president of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha for treason, and the dissolution of the CNRP by the Supreme Court – were legal, not human rights violations, nor a violation of international human rights obligations.

All such legal action was taken to protect peace, stability and social order “to prevent any attempt to topple the government in an anarchic way”, he said.

“Cambodia’s position is that we are trying our utmost to negotiate with the EU to explain to them and make them understand that what happened was enforcement of the law."

“We won’t abandon law enforcement, sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law and opt for aid,” he said.

He said the civil society groups that issued the public statement should instead request the EU consider the interests of all Cambodian people and the nation, rather than a handful of opposition politicians appealing to the international community to put pressure on their own country.

EU ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar declined to elaborate on the visit.

“The EU has been clear that it will continue to engage with the Cambodian authorities over the coming months over EBA and related issues. This week’s visit is part of that process,” he said on Tuesday.

Organisations contributing to the public statement included Adhoc, Comfrel and the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM).

“We expressed our concerns to the public and relevant parties such as the EU and the government to make them know of the concerns of civil society organisations about the EBA withdrawal process."

“As for the conditions placed by the EU, [we] have not seen the government resolve any conditions significantly in response. So we worry that if access to EBA is lost, it will affect people’s livelihoods, especially [garment] workers, and affect Cambodia’s economy,” said Soeung Sen Karuna, a spokesman and human rights monitor with rights group Adhoc.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Ket Sophann said his ministry is to receive the EU delegation on Wednesday. He said the visit is “part of a political dialogue”.

The delegation is also to meet Ministry of Interior officials on Wednesday, ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said.

In February, the EU Commission launched the 12-month EBA withdrawal procedure. The first six months is referred to as the monitoring and evaluation period, in which there is close engagement between Cambodia and the European Commission.

During this stage, the EU will urge Cambodia to take the necessary measures to address the concerns aired to maintain its access to EBA.

The European Commission has cited serious human rights violations and a backsliding of democracy as being behind their decision to start the EBA withdrawal process.

The EU’s EBA scheme gives least developed status countries duty and tariff free imports to the 28-nation bloc. It is reported to be worth $676 million annually to Cambodia.

MOST VIEWED

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that

  • Jica seeks to turn PP, towns into smart cities

    Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) representatives have sought support from Siem Reap’s Apsara National Authority (ANA) to transform the ancient capital into a smart city. The call was made in February last year after the government approved three cities to join the Asean Smart