Tuesday April 23, 2019
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Cambodia’s Interior Minister Claims, Loses EU Trade Preferences Will Create Economic Hardship

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which is banned in Cambodia but has regrouped and is active outside the country, would support Sar Kheng, who also serves as Cambodia’s deputy prime minister, if he were to stage a coup, Sam Rainsy said.

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Cambodian interior minister and deputy prime minister Sar Kheng is shown in a file photo. RFA

Cambodia will face severe economic hardship if the European Union proceeds with threatened plans to suspend beneficial trade preferences, Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Monday, calling the expected move a matter of “regret.”

Speaking at a ceremony for retired civil service workers, police officers, and veterans with disabilities in the provincial town of Battambang, Sar Kheng rejected European demands for greater political freedom in the Southeast Asian country.

Such demands infringe on Cambodia’s sovereignty and independence, he said.

“We can ultimately rely on only one thing, and that is making our own efforts,” Sar Kheng said. “As long as we depend on others, we will not be working at our full strength.”

“Whether the EU suspends these [trade preferences] or not is up to them. But we would welcome it if they don’t. We would be happy and grateful to them,” he said.

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“They create jobs and opportunities, generate income for workers, and reduce poverty for our residents. If these are suspended, this will surely affect investment mechanisms to some extent.” Pixabay

The EU decided in February to launch a six-month monitoring period to determine whether Cambodian exports should continue to enjoy tax-free entry into the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

The EU trade measure, and a similar one proposed by the U.S. Congress, was motivated by the September 2017 arrest of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha, as well as a wider crackdown on media and civil society.

Kem Sokha’s arrest, and a decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP two months later, paved the way for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in a July 2018 general election that was widely seen as unfree and unfair.

Sar Kheng was one of a group of three top Cambodian officials, including Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Trade Minister Pan Sorasak, who met on March 19-20 to open a dialogue with an EU delegation led by European Action Service (EEAS) deputy managing director of Asia & The Pacific Paola Pampaloni.

‘Done taking orders’

Speaking on March 29 at a three-hour forum in the capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen told civil servants, members of the private sector, and diplomats including the EU Ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar, that Cambodia is “fed up” with demands from foreigners about how to run the country.

“Cambodia is done taking orders—foreigners tell us to do things and if we decline, they threaten to impose taxes,” he said.

The Cambodian government and the EU should now hold further talks to find common ground and avoid losses to the country’s garment industry, an independent trade union leader said on Monday.

Factory workers in Cambodia will be the first to suffer if trade preferences are suspended, Ath Thun—president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU)—told RFA’s Khmer Service.

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Writing in a Facebook post on April 3, exiled acting opposition chief Sam Rainsy called on the country’s people to oust Hun Sen, who has now ruled Cambodia for more than three decades. RFA

“We are really concerned because the EBA [trade provisions] are crucial,” he said.

“They create jobs and opportunities, generate income for workers, and reduce poverty for our residents. If these are suspended, this will surely affect investment mechanisms to some extent.”

Call for ouster

Writing in a Facebook post on April 3, exiled acting opposition chief Sam Rainsy called on the country’s people to oust Hun Sen, who has now ruled Cambodia for more than three decades.

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The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which is banned in Cambodia but has regrouped and is active outside the country, would support Sar Kheng, who also serves as Cambodia’s deputy prime minister, if he were to stage a coup, Sam Rainsy said.

Different visions for the country’s future now divide the prime minister and his deputy, Sam Rainsy said.

“We say that if [Sar Kheng’s followers] dare to topple Hun Sen, we will support them. They will not be isolated,” he said. (RFA)

Next Story

ILO Calling for Revisions to Address Physical, Psychological Problems Stemming from Changing Job World

U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work

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FILE - A worker programs a tablet to control SAM, a semi-automated mason, as it works on the facade of a school in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. VOA

The U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is calling for revisions to address physical and psychological problems stemming from the changing job world.

In a new report, ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. It says more than 374 million people are injured or fall ill every year through work-related accidents. The cost to the world economy from work days lost is nearly four percent of global Gross Domestic Product.

The ILO’s report warns the changes and dangers posed by an increase in technology could result in a worsening of that situation. It says new measures must be implemented to deal with the psycho-social risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases resulting from new forms of work.

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FILE – Technicians make final inspections to vehicles on an assembly line at the Nissan Canton Assembly Plant, in Canton, Mississippi, March 19, 2018. VOA

It says digitization, artificial intelligence, robotics and automatization require new monitoring methods to protect workers.

Manal Azzi, an ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health, says that on the one hand, new technology is freeing workers from many dirty, dangerous jobs. On the other, she says, the jobs can raise ethical concerns.

She told VOA surveillance of workers has become more intrusive, leading them to work longer hours, a situation that may not be ethical.

“Also, different monitoring systems that workers wear. Before, you would punch in, punch out. Now, you could wear bands on your wrist that show how many hours you are actually working in a production line. And, there is even discussion of introducing implants, where workers can be continuously surveyed on their production processes,” she said.

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ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. Wikimedia

Azzi said a host of mental problems could be introduced by new work environments. The report also focuses on changes in demographics. It says employers have to adapt to the physical needs of older workers, who may need training to safely operate equipment.

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Another area of concern is climate change. The ILO is positive about the green jobs being introduced. But it says care must be taken to protect people from warmer temperatures that increase risks, including air pollution, heat stress, and newly emerging diseases.

In the past, creating a safer working environment focused on the prevention of risks. Authors of the report say the ILO today needs to anticipate the risks. They say new skills and information about safety and health in the workplace have to be learned at an earlier age. Before young people apply for a job, they say, they should know their rights. The power of knowledge, they say, will help protect employees in the workplace. (VOA)