PHNOM PENH —
The European Union has said it will announce the results of a review of its relationship with and support for elections in Cambodia in the coming days following a decision by the United States this week to impose visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials.
The announcement came after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government oversaw the banning of the country’s main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and the arrest of its president, Kem Sokha, ahead of elections in 2018.
“This is a significant step away from the path of pluralism and democracy that is enshrined in Cambodian constitution and has been supported by Cambodia’s international partners, including the European Union,” E.U. Ambassador George Edgar said in a press briefing in Phnom Penh on Friday.
Edgar said government claims it was just enforcing the country’s laws were not good enough as the “perception [is] that the laws have been used selectively in order to target institutions which are seen as opposing or critical of the government.”
He added that the European Commission was coming to a decision about whether to continue to fund the National Election Committee, the body that oversees elections in Cambodia, after three of its members resigned in protest at the dissolution of the CNRP. The state recently appointed three government-friendly replacements to the body.
“We don’t yet have a full decision. But I expect that to come in the next few days.”
A spokesman of the NEC could not be immediately reached for comment.
The increasing tensions with the west come as Cambodia is drawing increasingly close to Beijing, which is offering political and economic support to Hun Sen.
The United States has already withdrawn its financial support for the NEC.
Edgar added that E.U. inspectors were also assessing Cambodia’s eligibility for the preferential trading scheme known as Everything But Arms.