Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday criticised sanctions placed by the UN Security Council and powerful countries on smaller states as unjust and impacting nations not involved in disputes.
Hun Sen and Mahathir held a joint press conference on Tuesday at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on the second day of the Malaysian prime minister’s three-day visit to the Kingdom.
“Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and I discussed the sanctions placed on North Korea by the UN Security Council, as well as the sanctions used by powerful countries against other nations.
“Such sanctions not only impact the country they are placed on, but also others that are not involved other than being trade partners,” Hun Sen said.
The South China Sea and the Rohingya issue in Myanmar were also discussed, he added.
Hun Sen’s statement was echoed by Mahathir, who said moves banning countries from trading with targeted nations were “unjust”.
“These are very unjust because a small country cannot put sanctions on other nations. On the contrary, only the superpowers can place sanctions, pressing smaller countries into not having freedom, even though they talk about human rights and freedom,” Mahathir said.
He said the UN was the forum at which issues should be discussed, not forced.
Hun Sen and Mahathir said they wished to see Timor-Leste become a full member of the Asean community, promising to encourage the bloc to accept its inclusion at the upcoming Asean summit.
Hun Sen said Cambodia and Malaysia shared economic and trade ties, as well in security, investment, tourism, education and culture, among other areas.
“And we are committed to strengthening and widening this close cooperation, in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks, for the interests of our people and to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world,” Hun Sen said.
However, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said sanctions were placed on North Korea because its nuclear programme was considered a threat to regional and international security.
He said the action against North Korea was not comparable to the situation in the Kingdom, where the EU was in the process of reviewing Cambodia’s access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement, while the US was considering removing the Kingdom from its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
The “Cambodia Democracy Act 2019” was also passed by the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, in July.
If signed off by US President Donald Trump, the bill would allow asset blocking and visa sanctions against high-ranking Cambodian officials the US sees as responsible for undermining democracy and violating human rights in the Kingdom.
“The reasons behind moves on Cambodia are its leadership’s alleged destruction of democracy, human rights and the rule of law of a free society, in defiance of its own Constitution and its obligations under the Paris Peace Agreements, under the [EU’s] EBA agreement and the [US’] GSP agreement,” he said.
He said the US and two EU member states, France and the UK, are signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on Tuesday that powerful countries often pressed smaller nations into following them.
Powerful countries did not talk about human rights when they caused wars, he said.
“What Mahathir said was correct based on this principle. For example, how many children have died crossing seas as a result of wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Were the powerful countries thinking about human rights then?” he said.
However, he said world security in relation to North Korea’s nuclear programme should not be ignored.