Lieutenant General Hun Manith, director-general of the General Intelligence Department, yesterday said the European Union is testing the will of the government and all Cambodians by threatening to withdraw the country’s access to the Everything-but-arms trade scheme.
On Monday, European Commission vice president Federica Mogherini said in a statement that despite steps taken by the government to improve the situation, its access to the scheme must still be questioned.
Ms Mogherini said the European Commission needed to highlight the deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia over the past 18 months.
In an audio recording shared with journalists yesterday, Lt Gen Manith said the country will continue to survive regardless of whether or not the European Union revokes the EBA.
“If the EU withdrew the EBA treaty in the upcoming days, it would be a disappointment. It could affect part of the economy,” Lt Gen Manith said. “Please remember that we must protect our sovereignty. I notice that some of us are becoming weak at this point.”
“The country’s political situation is calm. For this reason, they [foreigners] are trying to provoke chaos and observe reactions from intellectuals and business people so when this scenario comes true, they can create plans,” he added.
Lt Gen Manith said Cambodians must trust their leaders and stand with them against the threat of foreign sanctions.
“It’s a test. They want to see if we would bow our heads to foreigners or stand up against them with pride,” he said, noting that from 1980 to 1993, Cambodia was able to pull itself out of constant pressure and make situations better because of its citizens.
On Tuesday, the government issued a statement calling the EBA review an extreme injustice, as it disregards progress made by the government.
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday on Facebook said the Kingdom will not move backward.
“We are now standing on our own and we must keep moving forward with hope,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Do not let fear come in between us and development.”
Sam Inn, secretary-general of the Grassroots Democratic Party, said he supports the government’s stance against exchanging sovereignty for EBA access.
“But making the EU and the United States enemies of Cambodia is the wrong choice,” Mr Inn said. “Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, once said that as a small country, we cannot change big trees, but we can manoeuvrer under their shade.”
Political analyst Sakoun Sok yesterday said Cambodia can no longer depend on other countries and blamed former opposition leader Sam Rainsy for making Cambodians susceptible to foreign threats.
“Without the EBA, some countries have managed to survive – why are we threatening ourselves just to pave ways for Mr Rainsy to return to the country,” Mr Sok said. “Please be strong and stop depending on others.”
Executive director of Transparency International Preap Kol yesterday said the suspension of the EBA would affect millions of people, including investors.
He added that he is ready to offer input for possible solutions, noting that he does not want the country to become a victim trapped in a political conflict.
“We all have rights and obligations to take care and seek a solution,” Mr Kol said. “We must not stay still and become a victim of this. There must be reform to improve democracy and human rights.”