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ឯកសារ​ប្រវត្តិ​សាស្ត្រ ៖ NGOS, Unions Urge Intervention in Cambodia’s Political Crisis Amid EU Fact-Finding Mission ថ្ងៃពុធ 11 ខែកក្កដា 2018

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in ប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រ, អំពីស្រុកខ្មែរ, English.
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NGOs and unions are calling on the European Union to help resolve Cambodia’s political crisis ahead of a general election this month, as a delegation from the bloc wraps up a fact-finding mission to assess the country’s compliance with its human rights obligations as dictated by a tariff-free export scheme.

Nearly a dozen commissioners from the EU were set to meet with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, according to local media reports, in the delegation’s last stop on its seven-day mission to determine whether to suspend Cambodia from its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, under which all exports to the bloc are tariff-free, with the exception of weapons.

Since the mission began on July 4, delegates have met with several local rights groups and trade unions, as well as Te Chanmono—the wife of the now-dissolved main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha, who has been held in prison since his arrest in September on charges of treason—to discuss Cambodia’s rights record and the state of democracy in the country.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November over allegations it was involved in a plot to topple the government, stripping the party’s officials of their posts and banning many lawmakers from politics for five years. The CNRP’s seats in parliament were distributed to government-friendly parties that had been rejected by voters.

The dissolution of the CNRP and the arrest of Kem Sokha, as well as a months-long crackdown on NGOs and the independent media, are measures widely seen as part of a bid by Prime Minister Hun Sen to ensure that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) stays in power in Cambodia following the July 29 general election. Hun Sen marks 33 years in office this year.

Soeung Sen Karona, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA’s Khmer Service Wednesday that he and other NGO representatives met with EU delegates on July 6 and expressed their concerns over ongoing rights violations in Cambodia.

He said the mission had “accepted our concerns” and pledged to include them in its findings to the European Commission for consideration on whether the EU should reconsider preferential trade treatment for Cambodia.

“We also requested that the EU intervene and pressure the Cambodian government to respond to its recommendation to restore democracy in the country, or lose economic benefits from EBA scheme,” he said.

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union President Ath Thon told RFA that EU delegates met with representatives of his union and other independent unions on July 9 and asked them about the status of freedom of expression and assembly in Cambodia, as well as restrictions on labor rights.

“[We told them that] we want more freedom for unions and workers,” Ath Thon said, adding that he and other union representatives had urged the EU to pressure Cambodia’s government on their behalf.

“We also want better working conditions and benefits for workers.”

Ath Thon said that the union representatives did not have time to speak with the delegates about their assessment of whether the EU should suspend the EBA scheme.

A day later, delegates met with Te Chanmono, senior CNRP official Muth Chantha confirmed in a post on his Facebook page, saying that members of the fact-finding mission had “expressed concerns over the continued detention of Kem Sokha and demanded that he be released immediately.”

EU mission

EU ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar confirmed to RFA that the delegation met with a wide variety of stakeholders during its visit.

“The mission has met a range of interlocutors from government, civil society, labour unions, the private sector and the international community,” he wrote in an email.

“The purpose has been to learn more about the situation in Cambodia in terms of human rights and labour rights, in the context of the EU’s enhanced engagement with Cambodia under the Everything But Arms arrangement. The information gathered by the mission will feed into the decision making process in the European Commission and the European External Action Service.”

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