The Cambodian diaspora in Switzerland on Wednesday sent a petition to Swiss President Alain Berset, requesting his government not to sanction Cambodia or support such action, a letter posted on the Foreign Affairs website said.
The petition, entitled Petition for peace, stability, and development in Cambodia, was signed by about 70 people.
“Cambodia will suffer a severe economic crisis if any sanctions were to be imposed by the Swiss federation. There is no doubt that those who would suffer the most are low-income and other vulnerable Cambodians, such as farmers,” the petition reads.
“So, we would like to appeal to the Swiss federation not to place any sanction, including economic sanctions or support any sanction or other sanction actions initiated by allied countries or the countries that oppose the royal government of Cambodia, which would benefit only a handful of opposition groups but would affect the lives of millions of Cambodians, especially workers and farmers,” the letter continued.
The letter said there were no restrictions on the freedom of the press, but instead Cambodia provides full rights to the media – radio, TV, newspapers and social media – including pro- and anti-government ones.
“Even though they report negatively about the royal government of Cambodia, they still can operate there,” the letter said. The group praised the Swiss government for contributing to the development in Cambodia and warned that any economic sanctions on the Kingdom would result in a civil war.
Last year, the government forced the closure of 30 radio stations that broadcast content from Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Voice of Democracy.
Chum Sonry, spokesperson for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Thursday, echoed the sentiments of the petitioners.
“Our people in Cambodia and abroad don’t want to see any sanctions because such actions will affect their living conditions. It affects the labourers and their families,” Sonry said.
Cambodia recently sent a delegation to the European Union (EU) to clarify the political situation in the Kingdom. But as of Thursday, no information on their efforts has been forthcoming, he said.
Meanwhile, an EU delegation is due to arrive soon in Cambodia for a fact-finding mission to study the Kingdom’s compliance with its human rights duties as enshrined in the Everything But Arms (EBA) import arrangement, in which some Cambodian products are granted duty-free status.
CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said he welcomed the EU fact-finding delegation and was optimistic about their future findings.
“We welcome the EU delegation. If they come to Cambodia, they will see that the real situation in the Kingdom is not like the propaganda from the outlawed rebel group,” Eysan said.
He was referring to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the EU may impose sanctions on the Kingdom, but he doubted that the bloc would remove Cambodia from the list of countries that benefit from EBA.
“I don’t think the EU would end or suspend EBA. It could adopt targeted measures and impose selective sanctions on those it sees as being responsible for the present situation in Cambodia, and perhaps their close associates who directly benefit from the EBA and/or have commercial links with the EU."
“These selective sanctions would be sufficiently effective, and yet least hurt those working in the export sector,” he said.