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Cambodian Government Mulls Response to European Union Report on EBA Suspension

FILE: Garment workers are entering for their work shift at the factory located in Sihanoukville provincial Preynub district, on Feb 12, 2019. (Aun Chhengpor/VOA Khmer)

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong said the government will attempt to address all the points of concern raised by the European Union but refrained from divulging any details. 

Cambodian government officials were tight lipped on Wednesday as to the administrations potential response to the European Commission’s report on whether to suspend key trade privileges, which was released on Tuesday.

The EU Commission released its preliminary findings after a six-month investigation period that could see Cambodia lose its access to the ‘Everything But Arms’ trade privileges on account of systemic human rights violations. The report has not been made public and has been sent to the government for an official response.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong said the report had been received but he had not read the findings.

“[The] Cambodian side has already received the report,” he said.

He added that the government will attempt to address all the points of concern raised by the European Union, again refraining from divulging any details.

“So, when we review and study [the report], we should know which points we should answer,” he said.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said that the EU should know that it cannot coerce the government to change its policies, and that the courts will continue to function independently in cases against opposition officials.

“This is a judicial procedure,” he said.

The European Union has consistently called for the dropping of charges against opposition leader Kem Sokha and party activists arrested recently, as well as a restoration the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Kem Sokha also met with the head of the European Union delegation to Cambodia, Carmen Moreno, on Wednesday though both refused to speak to the media after the meeting.

Kem Sokha’s close aide, Muth Chantha, said the two spoke about the development of Cambodia and Sokha’s personal situation. The European Union acknowledged the meeting in a social media post.

On Sunday, a Phnom Penh court altered the conditions of Kem Sokha’s bail conditions to allow him to travel on within the country. At the time, the European Union reiterated its stand that Kem Sokha should be released along with 85 opposition activists who have been arrested.