Sweden said yesterday it would rethink its engagement with Cambodia if the opposition CNRP is dissolved, in the strongest warning yet from a Western aid donor.
The government has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the party after charging its leader, Kem Sokha, with treason last month.
Swedish Human Rights Ambassador Annika Ben David told a news conference at the end of a five-day visit the banning of the opposition party could have consequences.
“Should the CNRP be dissolved, this will force my government to rethink our engagement with Cambodia,” she said.
Other Western countries have expressed concern at the arrest of Mr Sokha and warned against dissolving the CNRP, but have not raised the possibility of action.
Ms David did not elaborate on what Sweden might do, but pointed out that Swedish fashion group H&M was an important buyer of clothes from Cambodia’s garment factories.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan rejected the comments as interference in Cambodia’s sovereignty.
“This is language that the royal government can’t accept,” he said. “This is an invasion and insult to the Cambodian national institution.”
He added that foreign nations always stir trouble ahead of general elections in Cambodia, while they also fail to respect poll results, undermining democracy in the country.
Sweden had given Cambodia an estimated $20 million per year in aid over the past five year. According to Cambodia’s database of donors, Sweden ranked third for aid among individual EU member states last year after France and Germany.
“We very much wish to continue engagement with Cambodia and hope that our messages, have been heard,” she said.
“I have come in friendship and encourage my Cambodian partners to uphold international human rights principles.”
Failure to do so could send a negative message to international investors, consumers, and business partners, harming economic development in the country, she added.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said all parties must follow the rule of law.
“Any attempts to topple an elected government through color revolutions or create anarchy is not acceptable at any cost,” he said.