Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on all diplomats to focus on reducing the Kingdom’s foreign aid dependency by “turning challenges into opportunities”.
“We need to turn challenges into opportunities in order to strengthen and develop our country,” Mr Hun Sen said while closing the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s annual conference. “We need to reduce our dependence on foreign aid. We will continue to protect peace and political stability.”
He noted that he will continue to support the Foreign Affairs Ministry in their efforts in ensuring the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
“I wish to reiterate that Cambodia thanks foreign countries and partners for their loyal support for development,” Mr Hun Sen said. “But, we will not exchange sovereignty for your aid.”
“Cambodia needs to consider its sovereignty when we make decisions because we need to protect our national interests,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen’s comments were made amidst a European Commission inquiry into the Kingdom’s Everything-but-arms status.
Earlier last month, the EU launched a period of intensive monitoring over perceived human rights and democracy setbacks, such as the dissolution of the CNRP and crackdowns on press freedom and civil society.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstorm told Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn in Brussels that the review does not necessarily mean the status would be revoked.
On Tuesday, Mr Sokhonn blasted the EU for applying a “double-standard” when it comes to dealing with the Kingdom.
“They have double standards when it comes to Cambodia. We can say that they are behaving improperly,” Mr Sokhonn said, referring to the EU’s reluctance in taking action against Laos and Myanmar for their own perceived human rights and democratic setbacks.
“They close their eyes to the government’s achievements, they want to see a perfect democracy in Cambodia,” he added. “Please do not bow your heads to foreigners, because if we do, they will continue to do this to us.”
Mr Hun Sen said the regional political situation is volatile and that diplomats should remain alert when dealing with foreign countries.
“We are against any attempt to topple the Royal Government that was created by the will of the majority of people,” he said. “We will fight and solve challenges, such as terrorism, climate change, transnational crimes and infectious diseases.”
Daniel Rosario, EU spokesman for trade and agriculture, yesterday reiterated that the EU is still willing to engage with the government in order to save its EBA status.
“As explained when the procedure was launched, this is a process that will entail a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement with the Cambodian authorities,” Mr Rosario said. “We have no further comments to make on the details of this ongoing process.”
Earlier this week, EU Ambassador George Edgar said an EU fact-finding mission will arrive in the Kingdom by early April.
In an email on Wednesday, Mr Edgar reiterated that no decision has been made on the EBA yet.
“The EU has been clear that it will continue to engage with the Cambodian authorities over the coming months over EBA and related issues,” he said. “I am not in a position to give specific details at this point.”