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Posted by: | Posted on: October 8, 2018

Cambodia’s Hun Sen defiant despite EU trade threat

Op-Ed: Reuters

Cambodia’s Hun Sen defiant despite EU trade threat

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken a defiant stance following a European Union announcement last week that it would ramp up trade pressure on Cambodia over human rights concerns.

NEC reform

The European Union (EU) told Cambodia on Friday it will lose its special access to the world’s largest trading bloc, and said it was considering similar trade sanctions for Myanmar, adding that it was ready to punish human rights abuses in both countries.

The EU warned that it had launched a six-month review of Cambodia’s duty-free access to the EU, meaning garments, sugar and other exports could face tariffs within 12 months.

Speaking to Cambodian students on Sunday as part of a trip to Japan to attend a regional meeting, Hun Sen said Cambodia must defend its sovereignty. Hun Sen has held power for three decades.

“No matter what measures they want to take against Cambodia, in whatever way, Cambodia must be strong in its defense of its sovereignty,” Hun Sen said during a speech to students in Tokyo shared on his Facebook page on Sunday.

“I say it again and again: don’t exchange national sovereignty with aid, don’t exchange the peace of the country with aid,” he said.

He did not specifically comment on how the removal of trade privileges could impact exports.

The EU warned Cambodia in July that it could lose its special trade status after a general election that month returned Prime Minister Hun Sen to power.

Rights groups said the election was not fair because of the lack of a credible opposition, among other reasons.

The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the country’s Supreme Court at the government’s request last year and did not take part in the election.

Many CNRP leaders have fled abroad and are in living in self-imposed exile.

Cambodia’s exports to the European Union were worth 5 billion euros ($5.8 billion) last year, according to EU data, up from negligible levels less than a decade ago.

Cambodia’s textile, garments and footwear industry are vital to its economy. Around 40 percent of its GDP comes from garment exports.

The garments sector employs more than 800,000 workers. The EU and U.S. are the country’s primary markets for exports, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Reuters was unable to reach three workers’ unions for reaction on Monday. A government spokesman, Phay Siphan, was also unavailable to comment.

Cambodia is marking a national holiday from Monday to Wednesday this week with many offices closed.

Additional reporting and writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in BANGKOK; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Posted by: | Posted on: February 22, 2017

Cambodia: Parliament Approves Rules Allowing For Dissolution Of Opposition Parties

Cambodia: Parliament Approves Rules Allowing For Dissolution Of Opposition Parties

Op-Ed: Stratfor: Situation Reports

Already, CNRP pressure has managed to get CPP to move elections forward from July to February 2018. As the vote approaches, the pressure on the CPP will only mount. Cambodia’s economy is growing, a boon for the establishment, but its benefits have been felt unevenly. Moreover, the growth is leading to demographic and workforce changes that could prove challenging for the government to manage, creating new constituencies to please or neutralize. The majority of Cambodians now have no memory of the conflict period — or the Khmer Rouge — and have less tolerance for the abuses of power that come with a stabilizing strongman. Cambodia also has a large non-profit community and, with increasing Internet access, more awareness of international norms. More tangibly, the populations of Cambodia’s cities are growing and, with the industrial workforce concentrated in Phnom Penh, increasingly throwing their weight behind the CNRP.

But this framework of power has proved increasingly challenging to maintain, particularly as the peace dividend Hun Sen deftly exploited in the initial post-war era fades. Of the four general elections held since Hun Sen came to power, virtually all have been plagued by fraud allegations, contentious negotiations and government interference — the price of centralized rule. The biggest challenge to Hun Sen’s continued rule came three years ago. In the July 2013 elections, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 55 seats in parliament, including 22 from the CPP — the strongest-ever performance for a Cambodian opposition party. Still, the vote was marred by irregularities, compelling opposition leader Sam Rainsy to stage massive protests in the capital of Phnom Penh. (Rainsy, a former finance minister and lawmaker, has been trying to unseat Hun Sen since 1998.)

VS

In fact, over the past five years, Hun Sen has further centralized the government around himself, chiefly by placing family members in key government positions. His oldest son, Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, is deputy commander of a powerful praetorian guard that rivals the national military. Two other sons have also risen to the rank of general. All have been touted as potential successors. Meanwhile, the CPP establishment elite is deeply entrenched in the political and economic system, with deep bureaucratic ties. Moreover, Cambodia is ethnically homogenous, without the major regional cleavages of Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. With a strong grip on the military, rural electorate and bureaucracy, there have been no real institutional competitors to the CPP in Cambodia.

Hun Sen bio

Read details and make reference at Stratfor