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Fact-checking the Press Quick Reaction Unit

Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks in July at the European Parliament, where he called for stricter action from the EU to ensure legitimate elections in 2017 and 2018.
Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks in July at the European Parliament, where he called for stricter action from the EU to ensure legitimate elections in 2017 and 2018. Photo supplied

Fact-checking the Press Quick Reaction Unit

The government’s propaganda arm yesterday launched an attack on CNRP leaders over the now-dissolved opposition’s calls for economic sanctions on Cambodia, calling them “selfish” while also making several unsubstantiated or false claims.

The nearly 20-minute video, which was released by the Press Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU), is titled Cutting aid is the biggest achievement of former opposition party. It names former CNRP presidents Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, as well as deputy presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang, and accuses them of supporting sanctions on Cambodia and seeking to harm the country.

“Wherever they go, their language is to appeal to foreigners to do economic sanctions, for stopping the purchase of goods from Cambodia,” the video says.

In a Reuters interview in October, Sochua called for targeted economic sanctions on government leaders, but said any sanctions should refrain from hitting garment exports, which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians rely on for livelihoods.

The video also incorrectly compares the CNRP leaders to other opposition leaders in the region, claiming falsely at one point that former Myanmar opposition leader and current de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi never called for sanctions during her time in the opposition.

Suu Kyi and her political party were consistent supporters of Western sanctions against the Myanmar military junta for more than a decade, including offering support for a nationwide tourism boycott. She only called for sanctions to be eased when she was released from house arrest and the junta had loosened political and democratic restrictions.

Sochua said yesterday that the European Union has always made human rights and democracy prerequisites for its preferential Everything But Arms trade deal, to which Cambodia has access, and threw the blame back at the prime minister.

“[The] EU has given Mr Hun Sen plenty of time to comply or risk the consequence,” she wrote in an email.

While the EU has yet to announce aid cuts or sanctions on Cambodia, the US is one of the few countries that has taken concrete action, by suspending funding for the National Election Committee after the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP.

When asked yesterday if requests from CNRP leadership were responsible for the decision to suspend funding to the government’s election body, an embassy spokesman referred The Post to a November 16 White House statement on the funding cut, with particular emphasis on a sentence about the US taking “concrete steps to respond to the Cambodian government’s deeply regrettable actions”. Additional reporting by Brendan O’Byrne

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