HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition.
“Please don’t forget that you don’t need to advise me anymore. Because you have already sanctioned me, you have no right to advise me on human rights and democracy."
“And I would like to point out that if you sanction me [further], it equally means that [you] beat the opposition in Cambodia to death. I tell you this clearly,” he said, during the groundbreaking of a China-backed ring road around the capital on Monday.
“There is no need to embrace [you] because it’s too late, so let it be. If we were to step on the necks [of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)], it would be just like this."
“You [the opposition] transgressed, and we convicted you because this is the law. But you appealed to them [the EU] to destroy Cambodia. So it’s not necessary to keep you alive."
“Be clear about this . . . don’t look down on and don’t warn Cambodia. I have declared already that the independence and sovereignty of the nation cannot be exchanged for donations from anyone,” he stressed.
Having reached his 34th year in office since becoming prime minister, Hun Sen said he had ample experience in leading the country economically and was “annoyed” with warnings of economic sanctions.
He said countries using sanctions as a tool to threaten other nations should not be allowed to happen anymore.
Cambodia, he said, was trying to broaden its friendship with other countries around the globe, but friendship must come on an equal standing and 16 million people must not be used to serve political agendas.
Hun Sen warned that if the EU was to withdraw Cambodia’s access to its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, the burden would fall on the former opposition CNRP.
He told the EU to wait and see how his administration would respond to the withdrawal.
“You have no right to talk with me anymore. Therefore, those who were convicted continue to serve their punishments and those who could be released, can’t be freed. [We] collect and bring them to trial.
“This is because it is now too late. You were bad [and] I enforced the law. Then you run to tell your boss to maltreat me. So I step on your necks further [put more pressure on you],” he stressed, adding that the EU could sanction Cambodia or do whatever it wanted.
“When it is too late, we must play like this. The game is on and in [it there is retaliation]” he said.
Access to the EBA
Answering The Post’s questions on Monday, EU ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar explained that access to the EBA scheme was given to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Cambodia, based on the respect of the principles enshrined in the 15 UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Fundamental Conventions on human and labour rights.
“The launch of preparations for a withdrawal procedure with respect to Cambodia reflects serious concerns over developments in Cambodia in relation to the respect for the rights and freedoms embodied in these Conventions,” he said.
He explained that the formal withdrawal procedure for Cambodia had not yet begun. Should it be launched, he said, it would be 12 months before a decision was taken by the European Commission on whether or not to withdraw tariff preferences, wholly or in part.
If such a decision was made, the EU would then give another six-month grace period before the introduction of tariffs.
“The EU has emphasised that it will keep the channels of dialogue with Cambodia open and that if Cambodia were to take measures to swiftly remedy the situation that led to the initiation of the withdrawal procedure, the EU would reconsider the situation,” he said.
“The EU has never funded the CNRP or any other political party in Cambodia,” Edgar claimed.
Hun Sen once again said it was the CNRP who had requested the EU to put sanctions on Cambodia.
Asked to respond to this on Monday, CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy said: “The sanctions are directly related to Hun Sen’s recent totalitarian drift."
“If he really loves the Cambodian people and doesn’t want them to suffer, why doesn’t [the prime minister] just reverse his repressive policies?”
He said if Hun Sen did so, he would be doing two good things at once – pwreventing the placing of sanctions and allowing greater freedoms and enhanced democratic space for the Cambodian people.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the prime minister’s message showed he was concerned about the prospect of having access to the EBA withdrawn, and he was holding the former opposition party hostage to get the EU to yield and not to suspend access to the EBA.
“Apparently to hide his desperate situation, he postures as the strong party by inviting the EU to come and negotiate with him to continue the EBA, thereby making the EU look desperate to do so,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on Sunday that Hun Sen wanted to show his strength to the EU and the CNRP.
He said the prime minister wanted discussions with the EU on an equal footing, and he was telling the opposition to stop seeking to have international pressure brought on the government as it would backfire.
“This is a clear message in the name of a sovereign country to the opposition and to the international community, especially the EU. His language was strong because he wants to show his muscle for negotiations. This is his political habit,” he said.