UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News


Rights violations prompt EU to end Cambodian trade perks

Phnom Penh slams the ruling, claiming it is unjust and devoid of impartiality

Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Rights violations prompt EU to end Cambodian trade perks

Former Cambodian National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha (center) arrives at Phnom Penh municipal court for his trial on Jan. 22. (Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Share this article :
The European Union has withdrawn trade preferences for Cambodia worth almost US$1.1 billion under its Everything but Arms (EBA) policy in response to human rights violations in the aftermath of the 2018 national elections. 

The European Union will not stand and watch as democracy is eroded, human rights curtailed and free debate silenced,” said Josep Borrell, vice-president of the European Commission (EC). 

“Today’s decision reflects our strong commitment to the Cambodian people, their rights and the country’s sustainable development. For the trade preferences to be reinstated, the Cambodian authorities need to take the necessary measures.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a crackdown on the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the lead-up to the last poll, alleging its leaders were fomenting a “color revolution” to overthrow his government.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested and charged with treason, while other leaders like Sam Rainsy fled into exile. Another118 senior CNRP officials were barred from politics for five years and the party dissolved by the courts.

NGOs were also curtailed, journalists arrested and independent news outlets closed or sold to government-friendly interests after being hit with exorbitant tax bills. 

As a result Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) won every seat in the National Assembly, effectively ending a 25-year experiment with democracy which began with the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers amid an ongoing and long-running civil war.

Preferences favor industries like garments and grant Cambodian manufacturers low tariff access to EU markets under its EBA policy, but in return the government was expected to meet international standards on democratic issues including human rights.

Cambodia’s foreign affairs ministry said the decision was unjust.

“Despite grounded on the EU’s values and principles of human rights and democracy, the decision is politically driven and is devoid of objectivity and impartiality, two fundamental principles which are to be expected from the EC as a supranational body,” it said in a statement.

However, the withdrawal could have been worse. The EU said the move would affect about one fifth of goods exported under EBA, or US$1.09 billion worth of Cambodia’s current exports to Europe.

“The withdrawal of tariff preferences, and their replacement with the EU’s standard tariffs, will affect selected garment and footwear products and all travel goods and sugar,” it said.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged international companies sourcing from Cambodia to step up pressure on the government so that it complies with its international human rights obligations.

“As the dictatorial leader of Cambodia, Hun Sen is responsible for the ruthless crackdown on dissent and human rights across the country, which forced the EU to follow its own rules and suspend some EU trade benefits,” Adams said.

“Hun Sen can get these preferences restored and show he cares about Cambodian workers by ending his assault on labor rights, the political opposition and fundamental freedoms.”

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution