EU to Cambodia: drop Kem Sokha’s charges

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Kem Sokha after his release on bail. Facebook

The European Parliament (EP) on Thursday, Sept. 13, requested that all charges against former opposition leader Kem Sokha be dropped.  It did find his recent release from Trapaing Thlong prison due to health conditions – albeit on bail – a positive step; but found the step not long enough.

The Cambodian government finds that the EP’s requests were made biasedly.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg (France) recalled that respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, are essential for maintaining EU trade preferences.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat, states the EU’s position:  “We urge the Cambodian authorities to drop all remaining politically-motivated charges against activists, and lift the ban on political activity of 118 senior opposition members.  Local councillors from the opposition who were elected in June last year [2017] should be reinstated.”

It also calls on the Cambodian government to guarantee the safe return of all exiled opposition politicians, civil society activists and human rights defenders who have fled the country to avoid arrest.

The EP is considering specific targeted measures should the situation not improve.  “We now expect Cambodian authorities to restore free political debate and competition, and to respect the space for a free and independent civil society.”

Cambodia sees the EU resolutions as based in part on false and dishonest claims by Cambodian populists, and in part on partial and biased reports whose from political opponents and NGOs with a political agenda.

A Cambodian communiqué to the EU reads:  “The Cambodian Government begs a question.  If this resolution sets on such high human rights and democratic standards that couldn’t even be met in several EU member states, how can the EP expect such a perfect and idealist performance from Cambodia?”

It continues: “With regard to the conditions to be met under the EBA, this resolution knowingly and recklessly ignores the considerable efforts made by the Cambodian government to solve extremely complex problems, such as land issues or the introduction of social provisions and industrial relations, in a society that has never such known before.”

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