Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday criticised those urging foreign countries to cancel Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences with the EU, saying they were looking for a “colour revolution”.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2019 military training exercises at the National Defence University in the capital, Tea Banh said that calling for EBA to be removed was an anti-government, revolutionary act.
“Any pressure or sanctions is a contribution to a colour revolution. It is only contributing to meet their own aims, including demanding that detainees be released, even those found guilty by the court,” he said.
Banh also accused sections of the opposition party of fabricating accounts about the reality of life in Cambodia when appealing to foreign countries to pressure the government.
“Those countries are easily being deceived by the opposition’s lies. They lie that Cambodia has no democracy and does not respect human rights."
“Then the foreign countries simply believe it immediately. They talk among themselves that Cambodia needs to change. But we have been a democracy for 20 years, we have consistently respected democracy,” he said.
Banh’s comments come as the EU looks increasingly likely to withdraw Cambodia’s EBA preferential agreement, which allows the Kingdom to import goods into the bloc tax-free – over what it says is a decline in democratic standards in recent years.
The European Commission recently also imposed tariffs on Cambodian and Myanmar rice this month to protect European rice farmers, in another economic measure set to harm the Kingdom’s economy.
These were moves championed by the former opposition leader and “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy, who sees economic measures by the international community as a means of getting the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to make political concessions.
The director-general of the Institute of International Relations of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Kin Phea, said the CNRP always asked the international community to take action against the Cambodian government.
He said countries putting pressure or imposing sanctions on Cambodia did so due to political motivations, and not due to their interests of democracy.
“They have their political agenda. I am not saying it’s contributing to a colour revolution in Cambodia, but maybe those countries have their geopolitical interests in the region."
“We cannot take orders from those countries to do as they wish us to do. If countries impose sanctions or economic pressure on Cambodia to follow their political direction it means they are interfering in Cambodia’s internal affairs and violating our sovereignty as an independent state and a member of the UN. This is contrary to international law and the UN’s charter,” Phea said.
He said it was vital that the Cambodian government strengthens its internal political and economic structures so that it can resist such calls.
“We ourselves must have a strong political, economic and military situation. If we do not have any economic and political weaknesses and do not depend too much on them, then they cannot put pressure on us,” he stressed.