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No decision by EU yet to cut ties

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George Edgar shakes hand with Kem Sokha in 2016.

No decision by EU yet to cut ties

The European Union (EU) has not announced cutting relations with Cambodia, but it will be sending a delegation of senior officials to the Kingdom later this year to monitor the situation, according to the EU ambassador to Cambodia.

In an email on Thursday, the ambassador, George Edgar, said the EU has suspended assistance to the National Election Committee (NEC) following the court-dissolution of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in November 2017.

However, he said that in February, the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU suggested closely monitoring the Kingdom.

“The EU is Cambodia’s biggest export market. The Council notes that Cambodia has been granted preferential access to EU markets under the ‘Everything But Arms’ [EBA] scheme,” Edgar said in an email.

“In this context, the Council recalls that respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, is also a crucial part of the EU’s trade policy and . . . the granting of EU trade preferences.

“The Council invites the [European] Commission to enhance the monitoring of the situation and to step-up the engagement with Cambodia,” the email read.

Edgar confirmed that as part of that engagement, senior EU officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service – the diplomatic arm of the EU – will visit Cambodia this year to assess the situation and interact with the authorities and other relevant actors.

“However, the EU-Cambodia Cooperation Agreement remains in force,” he wrote.

Sam Rainsy, the current president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), said from the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels, where he met parliamentarians on June 5, that the EU cannot maintain the cooperation agreement with Cambodia because of Hun Sen’s “authoritarian” measures to “kill democracy” in the Kingdom.

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said the government welcomes EU delegates who wished to visit and monitor the situation in the Kingdom to assess if what Rainsy had said is true.

“The CPP and the royal Cambodian government welcomes the international guests to monitor the real situation.

“We are not as narrow-minded as the convict Sam Rainsy. His claims that government officials do not want EU delegates to monitor the country is totally untrue,” Eysan said.

Responding to the EU’s appeal to Cambodia to respect human rights, Eysan said Cambodia does respect human rights. If we didn’t, he said, the country would not have so many NGOs and media outlets.

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