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PM ‘will betray sovereignty if he decides to meet EU demands’

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Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch speaks at the academy on November 21, 2017. Hong Menea

PM ‘will betray sovereignty if he decides to meet EU demands’

Prime Minister Hun Sen “will be someone who betrays sovereignty and disobeys the constitution if he changes his mind to meet EU’s demands”, Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said.

He also said Hun Sen “would make Cambodia stronger if he keeps his stance on the matters related to the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement”.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by the academy on Friday, Touch said if Hun Sen fulfils the demands of some analysts, the EU and the US to release the former leader of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, it would mean that “the prime minister is selling sovereignty and disobeys the constitution, making the latter no longer the highest law of the Kingdom”.

The EU on Monday announced that it has begun the 18-month process of withdrawing the Kingdom’s access to its preferential EBA agreement over “a deterioration of democracy [and] respect for human rights”.

Touch said Sokha’s charges were legitimately made “based on the law and evidence, as revealed in a video showing him speaking in Australia”.

‘This is democracy’

He said from a legal standpoint, Hun Sen has no right to release Sokha “who is not a political prisoner as claimed by the international community”.

“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen is in the executive, not the judiciary. Samdech Prime Minister also has a National Assembly which some people accused of being a one-party parliament. That is not true as 83.2 per cent of Cambodians voted for the composition of the assembly. This is a democracy,” Touch said.

Touch believed there was a politically-motivated reason behind the EBA withdrawal. He said the move was the EU’s way to anger and confuse garment workers because “they have turned their support for Prime Minister Hun Sen”.

Speaking during the event, Arnaud Darc, the chairman of EuroCham which represents at least 330 European companies in Cambodia, expressed his regret at the EU’s decision.

He said he is “deeply concerned” that the bloc’s decision would not only pose a risk to the existing or planned EU-Cambodian business partnerships, but also for EU-funded development projects that contribute to the betterment of the lives of millions of Cambodians."

Arnaud Darc said the withdrawal would signal a negative sign for any prospective investor and would badly impact the women-majority workers in the garment sector.

He also stressed that the window to save EBA is still open. He called on the government, civil society organisations and EuroCharm to communicate with the EU through letters to inform them of the negative consequences of the withdrawal.

“Within one month [until March 11], we have a right as the representatives of businesses to write letters to Brussels directly to tell them about the negative impacts that can happen to the Kingdom’s economy,” he said.

Separately, Touch said the EBA withdrawal would create an opportunity for Cambodia to strengthen itself with reforms. For instance in corruption reduction efforts.

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