The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”.
Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing sanctions, including the ending of the Kingdom’s access to the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal and the suspension of its seat at the United Nations (UN).
The European Parliament on Thursday approved a motion for a resolution on Cambodia, with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, urging the Cambodian government to reverse a “significant step backwards for Cambodia’s fragile democracy”.
The Royal Embassy of Cambodia to the European Union firmly hit back shortly after the passing of the resolution, saying in a communique: “Since the beginning of its existence in 1979, the European Parliament, in a systematic way, has without fail adopted resolutions hostile to the Cambodian authorities, motivated by a political agenda driven either by foreign powers or opposition groups.
“The same spirit holds true for the resolution it adopts [now], especially since, according to a notorious Cambodian opposition figure, this resolution was finalised with his assent."
“The Cambodian Government wishes to bring to the vivid memories of the European Parliament the painful consequences of its tragedy of the 1970s, where the agony of its survivors had to be prolonged further due to the 12-year-long ban on development assistance by Western governments with the explicit endorsement of the European Parliament.”
The European Parliament decided to request EU governments to impose various sanctions on the Kingdom, such as ending Cambodia’s access to the EBA trade deals, which allow emerging economies to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free, and other aid.
Members of the European Parliament also criticised what it saw as serious violations of human rights following the Supreme Court dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the arrest of its former president Kem Sokha on treason charges.
Other sanctions considered are the suspension of Cambodia’s seat at the UN and freezing of the assets of government officials and the institution of visa sanctions.
The European Parliament said it would give Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government three months to reverse recent political developments or Cambodia would be subject to further sanctions.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said it would be impossible to suspend Cambodia’s seat at the UN without the approval of China and Russia.
He slammed the European Parliament’s threat as unreasonable as even during the upheaval and horrors of the Lon Nol coup and Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, the Kingdom kept its seat at the UN.
“It is impossible. And if there is a violation of the Paris Agreement, the signatories of the Paris Peace Accords are to convene a meeting with the UN Security Council. That the UN will suspend Cambodia’s seat – impossible."
“The possibility of [suspending the seat] is impossible because two members of the United Nations Security Council will clearly veto – Russia and China,” Eysan said.
On negotiations between the CPP and the CNRP, he said it remained impossible as the opposition party had been dissolved by the Supreme Court and removed from the registry.
Analyst Meas Nee said at the moment Cambodia seemed to be walking away from the democratic path as it turned from the US towards China.
He said the July 29 national elections, which resulted in an all-CPP National Assembly, contrasted with the Cambodian Constitution that requires the government to be comprised of multiple parties.
“So finding ways to get support from the international community will be more difficult. And if the Cambodian government continues to ignore this, I think that it will be a pity for our country,” Nee said.
In hitting back at the resolution, the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to the European Union also pointed out that the Kingdom’s government fully adhered to political plurality, freedom of expression and economic liberalism.
With such commitment, Cambodia has had seven per cent GDP growth over the past 12 years, lowered its poverty rate to 10 per cent and has high primary and secondary school attendance rates, it said.
The mission said that “freedom of expression couldn’t be equated with the freedom to insult, slander, defame and attack the dignity of people”.
It continued: “No country around the world could nor should accept that a foreign power finances and advises a political party to help it overthrow a legitimate government. But for the European Parliament, when it comes to Cambodia, it has chosen to turn a blind eye to such practices.
“This resolution calls unfairly for sanctions against Cambodia while mass crimes took place in other countries with which Europe has ongoing trade agreements with similar provisions on the respect of human rights and democratic principles.”