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Europe to discuss Kem Sokha’s detention

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The court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha sit in his house before the arrest.

Europe to discuss Kem Sokha’s detention

The European Parliament is set to hold urgent debates on selected human rights, democracy and rule of law topics on Thursday in Strasbourg, France, a briefing released by the body said last week.

Discussion on Cambodia will centre on the imprisonment of court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha.

Sokha has been behind bars on treason charges since his arrest in September last year. The Supreme Court denied his fifth bail request last month.

Many Western countries and international human rights organisations have demanded Sokha’s release, calling his arrest arbitrary.

The EU is considering ending Cambodia’s access to its Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preference scheme – allowing the Kingdom tariff-free exports to the 28-nation bloc – and has called for the reinstatement of the outlawed CNRP.

Moreover, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will hold its 39th regular session from September 10-28, with human rights in Cambodia to be debated on September 26, according to its tentative agenda.

Several human rights violation cases from various countries will be highlighted during the meetings, followed by the issuance of a non-legislative resolution on the same day.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said, irrespective of what the results debates are, Cambodia will not obey anyone as it is an independent state and EBA would eventually end at some point anyway.

“Cambodia is an independent state. We don’t obey anyone that tries to rule the Kingdom other than its elected leaders. We know that the EBA’s continuity will be based on the country’s economic growth. First, [EBA] would be phased out, then the implementation of a lower tax would remain,” he said.

CNRP deputy leader Mu Sochua said on Saturday that she expects a strong stance from the EU and the UNHRC.

“The death of democracy in Cambodia remains high on the EU and UNHRC agenda. And there will be a strong call for the immediate and unconditional release of Sokha,” she said.

The deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said Cambodia is facing a rough road over the next month as the European Parliament and UNHRC are likely to issue resolutions and joint statements, and carry out interventions that will hit Phnom Penh’s “human rights abusing record and the recent sham election which was neither genuine, free nor fair”.

“The [European Parliament] is also likely to pass a hard-hitting resolution that will significantly impact the European Commission’s decision to start the formal review to take away Cambodia’s trade benefits under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme.

“Efforts to issue a resolution against Cambodia are also afoot at the Human Rights Council,” he claimed.

He claimed that diplomats in Brussels and Geneva did not believe Cambodia’s claim of a colour revolution.

“In fact, when Cambodian diplomatic representatives brought up that pathetic storyline, diplomats in both Brussels and Geneva just shook their heads and laughed in disbelief,” he said.

He also claimed that the criticism expected in the coming weeks will be down to problems of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s own making.

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