The Czech government on Monday pledged to support the Kingdom’s efforts to retain its Everything-but-arms trade status during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to the republic.
Mr Hun Sen is on a five-day official visit to Eastern Europe which started on Sunday. He met Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the President of the Senate Jaroslav Kubera.
After their meeting in Prague, Mr Hun Sen and Mr Babiš attended a press conference broadcast late on Monday night by National Television of Kampuchea.
During the press conference, Mr Hun Sen expressed his gratitude to the Czech Republic for supporting the Kingdom’s efforts to preserve the EBA.
“In the Cambodian-EU context, I hope the Czech Republic, as an old and close friend of the Kingdom, will continue to support Cambodia to ensure that its democratisation process will be successful through peaceful and sustainable development,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“I also wish to express my thanks to the Czech government for announcing its support for the Kingdom’s stance [on retaining the EBA] within the framework of the European Union,” he added. “I hope other EU members will act fairly to Cambodia.”
Mr Hun Sen noted that the main purpose of his visit to the Czech Republic was to improve the long-term relationship between both nations, strengthen political trust and expand friendship.
“Prime Minister Babiš and I highlighted the importance of increasing bilateral trade by focusing on potential sectors that both countries have,” he said. “We discussed new projects related to healthcare, agriculture, environment and civil aviation.”
Speaking through a translator, Mr Babiš said human rights and democracy are priority issues in Czech foreign policy and he welcomed Cambodia’s efforts to improve human rights.
“I stand with [Prime Minister Hun Sen] and appreciate the fact that Cambodia has cooperated with the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights on the situation in the Kingdom,” he said. “We are pleased with the outcome of the report [made by the UN which assessed the human rights situation in Cambodia].”
“Regarding the possible removal of the EBA by the European Commission, the Czech Republic believes the trade scheme is very important for Cambodia, which has taken positive steps to address human rights issues,” he noted.
In February, the EU launched a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement to decide whether Cambodia should lose its EBA trade status over perceived human rights violations.
The Czech Republic is the second EU member to pledge support for the Kingdom in its ongoing battle to preserve the EBA scheme after Hungary did so in June.
Kao Kim Hourn, minister attached to the Prime Minister, said on Monday night that Mr Hun Sen also held talks with Mr Kubera.
“During the meeting…[Mr Kubera] said he will urge the European Union and European Commission to treat all countries equally and fairly,” he said.
Sok Touch, Royal Academy of Cambodia president, yesterday said Mr Hun Sen’s trip to Europe is aimed at explaining to EU member states the steps that the government has taken before they make a final decision on the EBA status.
Mr Touch said the EU is practising double standards since Laos and Myanmar have a worse human rights record than Cambodia but still enjoy the EBA status.
“It could be useless if we do not go to them to explain what we have done and just do so from within the country,” he said. “We need to provide them with clear information otherwise they will only listen to what foreign human rights groups or the press say.”