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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

Facebook Raises Questions Over EU Ruling on Removing Content

In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a "very troubling precedent"

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FILE - In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook's developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Facebook has raised objections over the European Union (EU) ruling that the bloc’s member countries can not only order the removal of content in their own jurisdiction, but all over the world.

According to the social networking giant, the ruling opens the door for courts to order the removal of content that is similar to the illegal speech, “meaning that something you posted might be removed even if you knew nothing about the earlier post that a European country had deemed illegal”.

“Imagine something you wrote and shared on Facebook was taken down, not because it violated our rules, and not because it broke the law in your country, but because someone was able to use different laws in another country to have it removed,” Monika Bickert, VP, Global Policy Management at Facebook, said in a statement on Monday.

“Imagine as well that your speech was deemed illegal not by a judge who carefully weighed the facts, but by automated tools and technology,” she added.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Facebook can be forced to remove content internationally.

The ruling arose from a personal defamation case brought by an Austrian politician.

The post in question shared a news article in which the Austrian politician had outlined her and her party’s views on immigration, together with a comment from a Facebook user strongly critiquing the Austrian politician.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

The court’s ruling raises critical questions for freedom of expression, in two key respects, said Bickert.

First, it undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on another country.

“This is especially important with laws governing speech, because what is legally acceptable varies considerably in different parts of the world and even within the EU. The ruling also opens the door for other countries around the world, including non-democratic countries who severely limit speech, to demand the same power,” said Facebook.

Second, the ruling might lead to a situation in which private internet companies could be forced to rely on automated technologies to police and remove “equivalent” illegal speech.

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In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a “very troubling precedent”.

“We have had precedents but we have successfully fought them. This is one where a lot of the details of exactly how this gets implemented are going to depend on national courts across Europe, and what they define as the same content versus roughly equivalent content.

“This is something we and other services will be litigating and getting clarity on what this means. I know we talk about free expression as a value and I thought this was a fairly troubling development,” Zuckerberg added. (IANS)