The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union today passed a conclusion condemning “recent worrying political developments and the continuing deterioration of democracy” in Cambodia.
The conclusions, passed by the European Union’s foreign affairs ministers, warn the Cambodian government that the council could consider “specific targeted measures” if the political situation does not improve.
They also demanded the release of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha, as well as the reversal of the forced dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Sokha was arrested in September on charges of “treason”, despite his parliamentary immunity, based on a publicly available speech he gave several years ago in Australia in which he told supporters he had received US assistance in planning his political career. The Cambodian government has claimed the video is evidence the CNRP was fomenting a foreign-backed "revolution".
In its conclusions, the council invites the European Commission and the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, to “closely monitor the situation” in Cambodia and “continue a thorough and comprehensive assessment of development cooperation programmes”.
With regards to the "Everything But Arms" agreement with Cambodia, which contains human rights clauses that can trigger a suspension of the preferential trade agreement in cases of abuse, the council “invites the Commission to enhance the monitoring of the situation and to step-up the engagement with Cambodia”.
The conclusions also welcome the decision by the European Commission to suspend financial support for the National Election Committee, while requesting the commission expand its support for human rights defenders and civil society.
The council further demands the Cambodian government not to misuse the judicial system as a political instrument to intimidate opponents, civil society, and labour and human rights activists.
A government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Updates to follow.