Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused former opposition leaders of taking workers hostage by calling on foreign nations to stop buying Cambodian goods.
In an address to more than 10,000 workers yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said calls for sanctions would not get rid of him, but would harm workers and ordinary people.
“The opposition party is now calling on foreign countries to stop buying goods from Cambodia, despite the fact it broke the law,” he said. “If there is any reduction in orders from factories, it will be the fault of the opposition. It will not be the death of Hun Sen, but the death of workers.”
The Prime Minister said he was confident that international buyers of Cambodian products would continue to support the country, despite attempts to encourage sanctions.
He added that the country faced sanctions in the 1980s and early 1990s but survived, so the economy will continue to develop regardless of any stumbling blocks.
“The opposition never helped the nation, but only demolished it by calling for foreigners to reduce their purchases,” he said.
Former CNRP vice-president Pol Ham declined to comment.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia on Friday said it was not concerned about possible sanctions from the EU or US following the dissolution of the CNRP, since the government had only implemented the rule of law.
Kaing Monika, deputy-secretary general for GMAC, said he believed that the sovereign rights of Cambodia would be respected by the EU and the international community at large.
“Politics aside, looking at labour rights performance in our industry, we have been doing very well with the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia project in existence for 16 years now. In this respect, there is no reason for the industry to be punished,” he said.
Sweden on Tuesday said that it was stopping new aid for Cambodia, except in education and research, and would no longer support a reform programme after the CNRP was dissolved last week. The announcement marked the first concrete action by a European Union country in protest at the crackdown on the opposition.
In remarks made at on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe foreign minister’s meeting in Myanmar on Monday, European Union vice-president Federica Mogherini said Cambodia could lose out on preferential tariffs and exemptions on exports unless the dissolution of the CNRP were swiftly reversed and former opposition leader Kem Sokha released from jail.
The US and the EU are the two major markets for the kingdom’s garment and footwear industry.
Garment and footwear exports to the US have gone down in recent years, and this trend continued in 2016.
There is an emerging sign of strong growth of the sector’s exports to markets outside the EU and US. Exporting to other markets represented 35 per cent in 2016, up from 28 per cent in 2015.
The kingdom’s total exports of garments and footwear rose by 7.2 per cent to $7.3 billion in 2016, up from $6.8 billion in 2015.