The European Commission on February 12, 2020, announced the partial suspension of Cambodia’s preferential trade preferences with the European Union after the government failed to address serious human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Hun Sen should take urgent measures to improve the dismal human rights and labor rights situation in Cambodia that led to the commission’s decision, including ending the ban on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and dropping charges against the leader of the CNRP.
The EU decision followed a formal year-long review of Cambodia’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) trade preferences. The EU’s preliminary conclusion, sent to the Cambodian government on November 12, 2019, stated that Cambodia has seriously and systematically violated the right to freedom of expression, restricted other civil and political rights, and failed to ensure labor rights. Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement that the EU “will not stand and watch as democracy is eroded, human rights curtailed, and free debate silenced. Today’s decision reflects our strong commitment to the Cambodian people, their rights, and the country’s sustainable development.”