I would like to appeal to the EU to refrain from lifting the EBA scheme for Cambodia. My fear is that the poorest section of the Cambodian population would be affected by this sanction, which would raise moral questions against the EU and eliminate good images that the EU has among them.
It is painful for Cambodia this way, especially when considering our past experience as victims of Western actions and inactions against Cambodia.
The threat of sanctions will make Cambodian people once again victims of big power policies. I am reminded of the Khmer Rouge period in which Khmer people were victims of genocide due to self-isolation by the Khmer Rouge as well as Western inaction against the Khmer Rouge itself.
The 1980s was a period of international condemnation and sanctions. Only very few principled states came to aide our people. Looking back at that period now, big power players were all wrong for our people. It was especially agonising for us when thinking that the misery that befell Cambodia did not really come from us, but big power contestations.
I appeal to members of the EU to utilise approaches which serve mutual benefits rather than taking the path of disproportionate action against a small state emerging from years of war and poverty. Do Cambodian people deserve another 10 years at peace and happiness? Do we deserve another 10 years of learning the arts of democratic competition?
Seasoned politicians within the EU understand very well that democracy is complicated, especially when the people are less educated and are not really able to make sound judgments regarding the direction their country is moving or are easily impressed by populist propagandas.
The CNRP is gone and is not going to come back. But in its place Cambodia is encouraging the sprouting of new political parties that can compete with conviction, honesty and higher moral pedigrees. We have had enough of the opposition leaders who are racist, corrupt and generally morally questionable.
The EU should distance them rather than aiding them. Despite challenges there are many positives within state governance to improve overall efficiency for better service delivery to the people. Respect of human rights comes from administrative efficiency and ability of the state to control and redistribute resources.
Human rights issues in Cambodia, if there are any, are minimal and in fact decreasing along with the rise of better governance. It is not as if Cambodia is experiencing “mass killings or crimes against humanity”. The human rights situation is not as dreadful as suggested, especially death around election periods decreased to zero in June 2017.
The threat of EU sanctions would run counter to development and would surely affect the lives of countless Cambodians, including the working class and their families. Of course Cambodia can re-adjust in many ways against the EBA repeal, especially to make sure that our competitive edge remains strong and redistribute the cost of tax toward the European end users.
However, we do not need to arrive at this stage and enter a downward spiral of sanctions and counter measures. A better and mutually beneficial approach is needed at this point.