Union leaders have expressed their regret over Sam Rainsy asking the EU to withdraw the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential agreement from Cambodia as it is the workers who will be severely affected.
The sentiment comes after the EU committee ceased receiving member state opinions on January 29 on whether or not to suspend the EBA. However, the power to decide is up to the EU committee, not member states as long as there is no unanimous decision.
The EU claimed it was the Kingdom’s deteriorating human rights and freedom of expression records that led it to consider suspending the EBA, as stipulated in the 15 points of the UN International Labour Organisation and Conventions on Human Rights and Labour Rights, including the dissolution of an opposition party.
‘Do not support Rainsy’
The Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said he was not happy and did not support Sam Rainsy’s actions.
“I do not support it because it affects the economy of Cambodia as a whole. If we look at some countries, we see that their politicians do not do that – ask the international community to put sanctions on their own countries or cut off the economic standing of their citizens. The issue is a result of politicians, so politicians must resolve it,” he said.
Sina said it is the workers’ right to protest against Sam Rainsy if there is a withdrawal of the preferential agreement because politicians should not bring the national economy and occupations of citizens into their political games.
National Trade Union Coalition president Fa Saly wrote on his Facebook on Saturday that if the EBA is withdrawn from the textile, garment, footwear and bag sectors, those who asked the EU to withdraw its trade preferential system will be punished immediately.
“We will not stay silent on the issue. You have to understand that millions of workers and citizens benefit from these sectors, so they will not stay silent either."
“EBA withdrawal will not promote respect for human rights, working conditions or democracy but will instead make Cambodians face unemployment, deteriorating human rights and a loss of democracy because of the issue,” he said.
National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia (NACC) president Som Aun echoed their voices and said Rainsy has been campaigning and inciting people outside the country to force the EU to withdraw EBA from Cambodia, which is an act to harm his own people for his own political ambitions.
“We respect the rights of all politicians, but politicians must think about the best interests of the nation and its citizens because the EBA issue is closely related to the interests of the nation, national economy, workers and citizens, so if politicians ask for the withdrawal of EBA for their own individual interests and ambition … then their actions go against what the citizens want,” he said.
NACC will act against Rainsy
Aun warned that if the EU withdraws EBA, NACC will act against Rainsy because any withdrawal of the EBA will affect the interests of workers, citizens and the national economy. He did not disclose what actions his group will take against Rainsy.
“We have been consulting with my working group, local unions and our activists about what course of action we will take … We will release what we want to do if EBA is suspended or withdrawn by the EU at the request of Sam Rainsy,” he said.
He noted that Sam Rainsy “always caused unrest and went to live abroad and pursued politics by mobilising foreigners to mistreat Cambodians and kill the national economy under the pretext of helping to rescue the nation”.
‘Right to express themselves’
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said union leaders have a right to express themselves and are allowed to show their dissatisfaction against Rainsy and protect their interests.
“It won’t do anything to prevent Rainsy from calling on the international community to put sanctions on Cambodia. Rainsy does not think about the reputation and interests of workers. His actions will make workers unhappy with him.”
On his Facebook page on Sunday, political analyst Sok Sakoun said if the EU withdraws the EBA from Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen will absolutely not allow Sam Rainsy to return.
“If you [Rainsy] dare to make the EU withdraw EBA, I [Hun Sen] cut you from returning to Cambodia. That’s why Samdech [Hun Sen] said why should we listen to ‘human rights’ anymore or listen to what they tell us any more, if they cut [EBA] … in the future the EU will have no right to say anything to influence the Royal Government of Cambodia,” Sakoun said in the post.
He said the withdrawal of the preferential agreement from Cambodia and Myanmar is not a loss for only the two countries but the EU itself as it will lose a cheap goods supplier.
Rainsy could not be reached for comment on Sunday.