PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia’s government said on Thursday it had responded to the European Union over human rights and political concerns and urged the bloc to consider that nearly one million female workers would be affected if it suspended trade benefits.
The EU has threatened to suspend its Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme with Cambodia after a European Commission report found that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has cracked down on the opposition, civil society groups and the media.
It has given Cambodia a Thursday deadline to respond to the allegations and a final decision whether or not to suspend the EBA will be made in February next year.
Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said the government had handed in its response.
The response is “a comprehensive report on the actions and measures undertaken by the Royal Government to respond to all the areas of concerns” by the EU, in particular with respect to the right to political participation, land rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association, the ministry said.
“The Royal Government expects that the European Commission will take into consideration the government’s good faith efforts to implement all the relevant international conventions under the EBA regulations, the potential social impact (on) nearly one million female workers and the indirect effect on families and relatives supported by these workers’ wages, as well as respecting the principles of sovereignty and non-interference into Cambodia’s internal affairs,” the ministry said.
Almost all factory workers in Cambodia are women.
On Wednesday, Hun Sen dismissed the threat by the EU to withdraw trade privileges, saying Britain’s exit from the bloc will ease the pain of sanctions.
The European Union accounts for nearly half of Cambodia’s exports, with Germany being the largest export market for Cambodia, taking roughly 11 percent of its goods, while Britain is the second largest, buying over 8 percent of goods from the Southeast Asian country, according to official data. Garments make up a large chunk of the exports.
Western countries have condemned the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha, who was arrested in 2017 before his opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned ahead of an election last year.
Kem Sokha was freed from house arrest last month but a ban on his political activity was kept in place. His trial will begin on Jan. 15.
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan