The government has “no interest” in what a “rebel group” had to say after it was urged to reopen the democratic space to retain Cambodia’s access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” agreement, said spokesman Phay Siphan.
“The Hun Sen regime must comply with the EU’s requirements. It is very simple – immediately and unconditionally release Kem Sokha and drop all charges against him.
“Kem Sokha continues to remain under house arrest while an investigation is completed by the investigating judge. The court should either release him or set a trial date,” Mu Sochua, the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) vice-president, told The Post on Wednesday.
On Monday, the CNRP issued a statement expressing support for the EU’s position on Cambodia keeping EBA and accusing the government of instilling “an atmosphere of fear”.
European Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini reiterated the bloc’s position in talks with Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn in Bangkok last week.
“We have no interest in what the political party that was dissolved and became a rebel group has to say. It does not carry value and we should not take notice of it nor care about it. That party has become a ‘ghost party’,” Siphan said on Tuesday.
The CNRP statement accused the government of “political oppression”.
“Political oppression and persecution, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and close monitoring of Facebook accounts labelled anti-government continue to spread an atmosphere of fear among Cambodia’s youth and civil society,” the CNRP said.
It said there were reports of violence being carried out by police and military police in dealing with land disputes, with requests to hold public gatherings being rejected.
“This only demonstrates that the regime of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen does not meet the EU’s required protection of human rights and democracy to continue to qualify for the ‘Everything But Arms scheme’,” the statement said.
The CNRP also condemned the reported blacklisting of six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who have declared their intention to accompany CNRP “acting president” Sam Rainsy on his announced return to the Kingdom next month.
“The CNRP yet again reiterates its willingness to be a part of positive change in a country united around the values inscribed in the Cambodian Constitution,” said the statement, confirmed by Sochua as being from the CNRP.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) denied the allegation that the MEPs had been blacklisted from entering the country.
CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said only undesirable foreigners are banned from entering the Kingdom, with Cambodian embassies denying them visas.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the CNRP wanted the EU to remove EBA access.
The government was right to ignore the CNRP statement as it was merely a bid to attract attention, he said.
“They want to see Cambodia lose access to EBA, so they do all they can to make it happen. Should it do so, they would see workers lose their jobs and Cambodia’s economic growth decrease.
“Then they would then argue that everything ‘was due to the government’s restrictions on political space and civil society’,” Phea said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “When the language of reason means very little to the country’s leadership, this particular appeal by the CNRP, however much it does make sense, is hardly anything but a cry in the wilderness.”