The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement.
The EU launched the EBA withdrawal procedure on February 12, citing “a deterioration of democracy [and] respect for human rights” in Cambodia.
The commission completed its report on Tuesday after a three-month investigation that ended on August 12 and has given the government one month to respond.
Ministry spokesman Kuy Kuong said the government would study the report before making an official response.
“The ministry received the report [on Tuesday] and will study it first,” he said.
EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Tuesday said the EU would make its final decision in February.
‘The EU is not our boss’
“We have completed our report on the temporary suspension of trade preferences to Cambodia.
“We are very concerned about the human rights situation there. The Cambodians now have one month to respond and we will make our final decision in February next year,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan on Wednesday said Cambodia would continue to explain to the EU the actual human rights situation in the Kingdom and the government’s efforts in
promoting democracy through various reforms.
“The EU is not our boss, nor is Cambodia its colony. We are partners so we will continue our dialogue as such. In this manner, we talk and make joint assessments. Cambodia has explained all the points that the EU is concerned about.
“In this partnership, the EU cannot dictate us to do this or that. They express their concerns and we tell them what we have done [to address them].
“With regard to human rights, we have continued to address the issue through various reforms. We have a human rights commission to assess all legal aspects concerning human rights in implementing laws,” Siphan said.
In a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn on November 8, the new EU ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno expressed hope that Cambodia would be able to maintain EBA access.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on Wednesday that new developments concerning Kem Sokha showed a change in the political situation in Cambodia.
“It will bring positive developments, but we don’t know clearly what influence it will have on the EBA agreement,” Phea said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday reduced the bail conditions of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Sokha more than two years after he was charged with treason.
Sokha’s new bail conditions allow him to travel anywhere within the country but forbid him from being involved in politics.
Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker, said the government had made efforts to show the EU that it wanted to maintain EBA access, with the court easing Sokha’s bail conditions.