The chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights Antonio Panzeri has urged the European Union (EU) to propose measures against what he claimed were human rights violations in Cambodia.
He also pushed for a swift report from the EU Commission and European External Action Service on their findings in an assessment over the Kingdom’s duty-free status in the bloc.
However, the Kingdom’s Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government wasn’t afraid of being taken out of the scheme and would choose to be independent rather than rely on it.
In a press release dated July 30, Panzeri based his argument on the imprisonment of opposition leader Kem Sokha, the alleged weakening of democracy, political rights, and silencing of dissident voices. He called for Sokha’s immediate release.
“I call on the European Commission and the European External Action Service to report swiftly on their assessment of Cambodia’s compliance with its human rights obligations, as foreseen under the Everything But Arms [EBA] monitoring process and to propose an appropriate response to the worrisome deterioration of the human rights situation in the country,” Panzeri said.
Last month, an EU fact-finding mission completed a seven-day trip to Cambodia to collect information from relevant stakeholders, in the lead up to a decision over whether the EU would suspend the EBA scheme, which grants tax-free imports from Cambodia.
EU Trade Commission press officer Kinga Malinowska said last week that the EU was still assessing the findings from the mission and no decision had been made yet.
Siphan said that the EU should not take politics into consideration when making its decision. “The EBA is clear for us. It should not be used to colonise Cambodia. We already made that clear,” he said.
“Cambodians try hard by ourselves and we imagine that the program would end one day based on the incomes of the people. Cambodia will not accept using EBA to play politics in the Kingdom,” he added.
Siphan said the scheme would end in the future regardless, as Cambodia is moving out of poverty.
“We are not afraid of losing it because Cambodia doesn’t want to be under the favour of any country. Cambodia wants to be self-dependent.”