ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
International relations

EU warns Cambodia on rights as it reviews trade benefits

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, greets his government officers during the country's 66th Independence Day from France, at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh on Nov. 9.   © AP

BRUSSELS/PHNOM PENH (Reuters) -- The European Union voiced concern at human rights in Cambodia on Tuesday as it gave a one-month deadline to authorities to respond to a report on its investigation before deciding whether to suspend trade benefits.

The European Union has threatened to suspend the trade preferences over a crackdown on the opposition, NGOs and the media by the government of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country of 16 million for over 34 years.

The European Commission said it had finalised its preliminary report on suspending trade preferences and sent it to Cambodian authorities. It did not publish the report.

"We are very concerned about the human rights situation there," EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Twitter. "The Cambodians now have one month to respond and we will make our final decision in Feb next year."

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong confirmed the report had been received, but said there was no comment for now.

In a sign of growing pressure on Cambodia, the government relaxed house arrest conditions at the weekend on opposition leader Kem Sokha, but did not withdraw treason charges against him.

The European Union has threatened the preferential trade terms which Cambodia gets through its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme that gives 47 of the world's poorest countries duty-free, quota-free access for all products except arms and ammunition.

The European Union accounts for more than one-third of Cambodia's exports.

It acted after the arrest of Kem Sokha and the banning of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ahead of elections last year that were swept by Hun Sen's party and were dismissed by western countries as a farce.

Any European Commission decision to withdraw preferences would still need approval by the European Parliament and EU member states.

Kem Sokha's fellow opposition leader Sam Rainsy, 70, met Malaysian lawmakers on Tuesday in a bid to rally support in Southeast Asia.

Rainsy and Kem Sokha, 66, have been locked in a long struggle against Hun Sen, 67, a former Khmer Rouge commander.

Rainsy has lived in self-imposed exile since 2015 to escape a defamation conviction and charges he says are political.

He said he had planned to return home via Thailand at the weekend to rally opposition to Hun Sen, but was barred from a Thai Airways flight from Paris. More than 50 people have been arrested since Rainsy said he intended to return home.

The EU has travelled to nearby Myanmar to raise concerns about human and labour rights, but has stopped short of starting the process to withdraw EBA preferences.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends July 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media