Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said Cambodia can survive without trade with the west amid calls from his opponents for the European Union and the United States to impose economic sanctions.
The comments came after it was revealed that Hun Sen’s commerce minister, Pan Sorasak, had written to the premier early in December highlighting the importance of the multi-billion dollar export markets.
Hun Sen’s government has banned the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, jailed its leader, Kem Sokha, and led a crackdown on civil society groups and independent media it views as critical of the government.
Both the European Union and the United States have suspended election funding over the crackdown, while Washington has also imposed visa restrictions on some top officials. Both are also said to be considering economic sanctions, including the suspension of preferential trading agreements with Phnom Penh.
Speaking to garment workers this week in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said his government was working to resist “negative influence” from the west while developing its agricultural sector, industry, and manufacturing.
“We don't want any consequences from anywhere to negatively impact us. It is just like giving us oxygen and if they took out the oxygen, we die. We cannot become someone who is waiting for the oxygen,” he said.
But, he added, Cambodia had survived economic sanctions in the 1980s and could do so again.
“The world depends on each other. The other countries import to our nation, we also export to theirs. And do remember that tax exemption is only for the poor," Hun Sen said.