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US Congressmen Introduce Cambodia Trade Sanctions Bill

FILE PHOTO - Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, leans over a garment worker during a visit to a factory outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The legislation would allow the US to withdraw, suspend or limit trade privileges Cambodia enjoys.

Two US congressmen have introduced a bipartisan bill to review Cambodia’s preferential trade treatment over the country’s human rights record.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the Cambodia Trade Act, which would require the US government to review Cambodia’s status under the Generalized System of Preferences, which grants the country exemptions and reductions in tariffs.

The legislation would allow the US to withdraw, suspend or limit trade privileges Cambodia enjoys.

“The regime of Hun Sen has steadily dismantled what was the burgeoning democracy of Southeast Asia,” Lowenthal said in a statement. “He has undermined the will of the people, subverted the promise of free and fair elections, and wielded power with the iron glove of a dictator.

“Intimidation, threats, violence, and even murder are the tools of his regime. He and his regime must pay a price for their role in destroying the rule of law and violating the basic freedoms of the Cambodian people.”

Cambodia has received preferential trade status since 1997. The country exported some $400 million in garments and textile products to the US duty-free last year, according to an industry body.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a similar legislation to the Senate in early January.

The European Union, citing human rights violations by Hun Sen’s government, has also begun a process to suspend their preferential trading status with Cambodia under the Everything But Arms scheme.

“As I have said repeatedly in the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen must be held accountable for uprooting democracy in Cambodia,” Chabot said. “Cambodia continues to receive preferential trade status when dealing with the United States while he continues to trample on the rights of his people. In light of his actions, it is time for us to reevaluate this special treatment.”