Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said that his country “will not bow down to any advice from foreigners” as he prepares to head to Geneva, where he is expected to address a United Nations human rights session on July 4 about Cambodia’s human rights progress.
In a ceremony to transfer the management of a school for blind, deaf and mute children from local NGO Krousar Thmey to the ministry of education’s supervision, Hun Sen made indirect references to the pressures from the European Union to suspend its Everything But Arms trade preferences for Cambodia in exchange for the restoration of the country’s civic and political rights.
During his speech, the Cambodian leader indirectly criticized the EU’s own human rights situation as declining compared to forty years ago while Cambodia’s human rights are getting better.
“We have to talk it out,” said Hun Sen, adding that “Cambodia will not bow down to anyone’s advice because some people were killed by bombs, rockets or air strikes. “How many were killed per day? Do they respect human rights? Do they know human rights?” he asked.
In late 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen made similar criticism after Barbara Lochbiler, Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament, encouraged the European Parliament to restrict visas for Cambodian politicians and freeze assets of those responsible for “a fundamental violation of democratic rights.”
During the 68th anniversary of the Cambodian People’s Party last Friday, Hun Sen also declared that Cambodia “will not bow down” to foreign donors’ conditions, explaining that such defiance was necessary to save Cambodia’s honor and pride.
Seung Senkarona, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc told VOA Khmer by phone that he was disappointed with the Premier’s statement.
The rights official believed the international community was not trying to pressure Cambodia but instead “they want Cambodia to follow democracy.”
“What they want is for Cambodia to follow democracy for real,” he said, adding that “You cannot just imply it unilaterally; you have to listen to the others.”
The human right spokesman added that he wanted to see Cambodia changing its behavior and accept the criticism so that the country can restore its political rights, press freedom, labor rights, and civil society rights in accordance with the demands from the international community, including the European Union and the United States.
The EU and the US have been pressuring Cambodia to restore its human right, political right by threatening to withdraw their respective EBA and GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) trade preferences, which could result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars every year to Cambodia’s export sector.