Prime Minister Hun Sen has denounced the “injustice” of the EU’s Everything-But- Arms (EBA) trade status partial withdrawal, comparing it to what was done to Cambodians by a majority of UN member states which had supported Khmer Rouge figures after the regime’s fall.
“I believe history is repeating itself in the case of the EU’s withdrawal of the EBA at a time when Cambodia struggles to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Hun Sen said in his speech during the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly held via video conference on Saturday.
He said the EU’s injustice reminds him of a historical “déjà vu” reminding the global body that a little more than 40 years ago, Cambodia had been liberated from the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime, during which more than two million Cambodians perished.
Mr Hun Sen said that for many years the traumatised and exhausted survivors, who were totally stripped of everything, had to rebuild the nation from scratch.
“Quite ironically, it was these very same survivors who were punished by a majority of UN member states,” Mr Hun Sen said.
He said these member states allowed the Khmer Rouge executioners to occupy the Cambodian seat in the UN.
Mr Hun Sen pointed out these same governments that preached incessantly about democracy and human rights were the ones that deprived the entire surviving population access to food, health, education, housing, development and peace for 12 long years.
“That struggle notwithstanding, Cambodia is strongly determined, as it did 40 years ago, to defend what it believes is the rightful path, that is to defend our sovereignty and to protect our hard-won peace, which is fully cherished by Cambodians who have gone through the most tragic devastation and are now rising as a nation to have equal footing, status and rights as other nations in the region and the world,” he said.
The European Union on February 12 announced its move to partially remove the Kingdom’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade status, after it determined that Cambodia has not done enough to mitigate alleged serious and systematic violations of human rights.
On August 12, the EU announced its official decision to partially withdraw Cambodia’s duty-free quota-free access to the 27-nation bloc.
The EU launched a review of the Kingdom’s EBA status after Kem Sokha, former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was arrested on treason charges and the CNRP was subsequently dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017.
The EU has since urged the government to have the charges dropped.
Mr Hun Sen said as a peace-loving small country committed to democratic principles, Cambodia can play its part in the international community only if it is assured that the rules governing the international system are fairly applied.
“Unfortunately, all too often, depending on the political ambition and hidden opportunistic agenda of some countries, Cambodia had to deal with hypocritical double-standards, biased and politically motivated decisions; in short, injustice,” he said.
Political analyst Em Sovannara told Khmer Times yesterday that what Mr Hun Sen said is reflecting only one angle but not reflecting all of them.
He said that in the case of the Cold War in the 1980s, Cambodia was sanctioned when the country was part of a communist bloc along with Vietnam, and the democratic nations reacted to this.
Sovannara said those EU countries who were signatories to the Paris Peace Agreement have the right to verify if Cambodia is applying human rights and democracy as stated in the Paris Peace Accord or UN Charters.
Speaking during the commemoration of the 40th founding anniversary of the National Bank of Cambodia at Chakdomuk Hall in Phnom Penh last year, Mr Hun Sen said that in the 1980s, the government had received assistance from the communist Soviet Union and other nations, but was sanctioned by western countries and some countries in the region.
He said that with support from Vietnam and the Soviet Union, Cambodia survived the western-imposed economic sanctions.