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German MP Calls for Reform

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Prime Minister Hun Sen told a visiting German federal minister that there was no political crisis in Cambodia, despite recent government action depicting the contrary, and claimed that opposition leader Kem Sokha was being sought by police because of an individual fault that could not be ignored.
 
Dr. Gerd Mueller, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, spent two days in Cambodia and held talks with the premier, vice-chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Chin Bun Sean, as well as Mr. Sokha, the acting president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
 
After hours of closed-door meetings at the Peace Palace yesterday, Eang Sophalleth, Mr. Hun Sen’s assistant, confirmed that the two men discussed cooperation between the two nations among a host of other topics.
 
Dr. Mueller, he said, also suggested that the government work to decentralize some of its power so local authorities could be better equipped to fight against climate change.
 
Mr. Sophalleth added that the premier defended the government’s recent manhunt for Mr. Sokha and the arrests of other opposition and human rights officials by saying the issue should not be seen as anything other than an individual problem for Mr. Sokha.
 
“The premier said that a person who does something wrong should not use political parties or NGOs as a breastplate,” Mr. Sophalleth said, quoting Mr. Hun Sen. He blamed Mr. Sokha for the entire ordeal, claiming the opposition leader was using human rights officials and his own party members to protect himself from his own faults.
 
Later in the day on Facebook, the premier wrote that he told Dr. Mueller to “reform access to information” in Europe because he believed members of the European Union (EU) were only listening to “one side.”
 
“Do not listen to and obtain information from only one side, from the opposition party,” he wrote. “You have to clearly understand the facts and the law to avoid misrepresentation.” Dr. Mueller heard a completely different story in his meeting with Mr. Sokha at the CNRP headquarters, where he was told that Cambodia is very much in a state of crisis and required help from the international community. He specifically pointed to the EU as a group that could make a difference in Cambodia, party spokesman Yim Sovann said.
 
“We informed the German delegates that the ruling party has repressed opposition members, civil society representatives and a National Election Committee official, which could result in a negative atmosphere during the upcoming elections. They have also abused the constitution and the parliamentary immunity of politicians in Sokha’s case,” Mr. Sovann said.
 
“He said the EU was concerned about the political crisis in Cambodia and the Germany embassy is following the political situation. He stressed that human rights and the opposition party’s rights must be respected and protected. He promised to inform all 28 countries within the Europe Union.”
 
Though Cambodia is developing rapidly, Dr. Mueller expressed his concern about the rising gap between the rich and the poor, Mr. Sovann told reporters. Dr. Mueller released a statement underlining the need for a vibrant civil society if Cambodia is to develop further.
 
“The right to assembly and the right of free expression of opinion are guaranteed by the Cambodian constitution. Human rights are one of the pillars of sustainable and inclusive development,” he said after his meeting with Cambodian civil society members.
During his visit, he made his way to garment factories working with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) regional program on social and labor standards in the textile and garment industries as well as the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories program.
 
In his statement, he said the visit gave him a better understanding of the garment factory situation and the female workforce in the country.
 
“Jointly with the ILO, the German development cooperation is lobbying for better social and labor standards in the Cambodian garment industry. We will support the Royal Government to improve the inspection system to make sure that international standards are met,” he said.

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