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Have A Look At ‘Strategy’ to Offset Loss of EU Trade Scheme in Cambodia

Others complained that the government was acting on behalf of the interests of factory owners, rather than the country’s labor force, and said companies are already making a significant profit in Cambodia, regardless of the number of holidays in the country.

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Cambodian workers sit down for lunch during break time in front of a factory in Phnom Penh on February 12, 2019. - The EU on Monday announced it would begin a process of intensive monitoring to decide whether to suspend Cambodia's "Everything But Arms" (EBA) deal, which currently provides tariff-free access to the EU bloc for all items except weapons and ammunition. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP). RFA

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday unveiled his strategy to offset the loss of a preferential trade agreement that the European Union is likely to withdraw in response to his government’s failure to reverse rollbacks on democracy, saying he is “done taking orders” from other countries.

Speaking during a three-hour forum hosted in the capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen told civil servants, members of the private sector, and other stakeholders—including diplomats and the EU ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar—that his government “won’t bow down” to anyone in return for aid or other handouts, and “has had enough” of other nations trying to dictate Cambodia’s internal affairs.

Hun Sen listed several reforms that he said followed the late King Norodom Sihanouk’s policy of independence and sovereign integrity, including reducing “unofficial payments” in his government, decreasing transportation fees, and cutting the number of national holidays from 30 to 23 days.

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Cambodia will continue to do business—they will pay us taxes and we will pay them taxes.”

He also called for a reduction in “certain fees” for using Cambodia’s two major ports, and said that the public will now only be able to take one day off of work for King Norodom Sihamoni’s birthday, instead of the traditional three.

“We will generate revenue of up to U.S. $400 million [following these reforms], so if the EU wants us to pay taxes, we will pay the taxes—don’t worry,” he said.

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 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.

Hun Sen said Friday 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.

“Cambodia can no longer endure this suffering and continue to bow down. Cambodia will continue to do business—they will pay us taxes and we will pay them taxes.”

He also directed the Ministry of Commerce to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the EU, citing “unjust trade practices” for imposing a tax on Cambodian rice for three years beginning in January, after an EU investigation found that “a significant increase” in imports of the grain from the Southeast Asian nation had “caused economic damage” to European producers.

Fewer holidays

The prime minister praised workers and government employees for “understanding” the need to reduce the number of national holidays in Cambodia.

“Workers get too many holidays and it affects economic growth,” he said, without providing details.

Hun Sen had announced his decision to reduce national holidays earlier this week as a reform aimed at improving the economy, saying at the time that it had nothing to do with whether the EU ends the country’s benefits under the EBA scheme.

His announcement immediately drew concerns from those who warned the move would negatively impact the income, health and morale of the country’s workers.

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“Workers get too many holidays and it affects economic growth,” he said, without providing details. Pixabay

Others complained that the government was acting on behalf of the interests of factory owners, rather than the country’s labor force, and said companies are already making a significant profit in Cambodia, regardless of the number of holidays in the country.

On Friday, analyst Ly Sreysros told RFA’s Khmer Service that Cambodia’s government doesn’t care about the EBA scheme because officials aren’t the ones who will be impacted by an end to the preferential trade agreement with the EU, which ranked in 2017 as Cambodia’s second-largest trade partner, importing goods worth 5 billion euros (U.S. $5.8 billion) from the country.

Also Read: Equal Pay Day Highlighting The Pay Gap That Exists Between Working Men And Women

She stressed that average Cambodians will be the ones who bear the brunt of losing the EBA, and urged Hun Sen to delink the EU’s demands to issues of sovereignty.

“The EU is requesting the government restore democracy and respect human rights,” she said.

“I think such a request is fair and doesn’t affect our national integrity.” (RFA)

Next Story

Microsoft Rejects California Law Enforcement Agency’s Request To Install Facial Recognition in Officers’ Cars

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

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Brad Smith of Microsoft takes part in a panel discussion "Cyber, big data and new technologies. Current Internet Governance Challenges: What's Next?" at the United Nations in Geneva, Nov. 9, 2017. VOA

Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, “we said this technology is not your answer.”

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Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police. Pixabay

Prison contract accepted

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence,” Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

‘Race to the bottom’

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a “race to the bottom.”

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AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found. Pixabay

He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

Also Read: ‘Dirty Cops’ Ahead of Mueller Report Release, U.S. President Donald Trump Takes Stand

“Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down. (VOA)