The opposition CNRP made another pitch for an end to free trade benefits for Cambodian sugar exports to the European Union at a meeting in Phnom Penh on Wednesday with visiting European Parliament members, blaming the benefits for effectively subsidizing companies that are evicting poor local farmers.
Cambodia’s sugar plantations are accused of stealing land from thousands of farmers across the country. Critics have been calling for a suspension of the duty-free access their sugar exports to Europe currently enjoy, but the E.U.’s trade commissioner has so far refused to initiate an investigation, a necessary first step before E.U. benefits can be removed.
Some European parliamentarians have backed the call, but to no avail.
The CNRP asked for their help again at a meeting with seven visiting European parliamentarians at the E.U.’s headquarters in Phnom Penh.
“I urged the E.U. delegation to launch an investigation into this blood sugar,” Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s head of public affairs, told reporters immediately after the meeting.
Despite the lack of such an investigation, the E.U. is currently in negotiations with the government, trying to convince it to compensate the families who have lost land to the plantations. Ms. Sochua said she urged the E.U. to make sure that any compensation plan take into consideration the earnings those families have lost out on since losing their land.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who also attended the meeting along with his deputy, Kem Sokha, said the delegates supported the opposition’s ideas for reforming the National Elections Committee. That includes a constitutional amendment to have committee members elected by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly and making the NEC itself a constitutional body.
“They were supportive of our idea of reform of the electoral [committee] because this was one thing included in the recommendations of the E.U. observers in 2008,” Mr. Rainsy said afterward.
The visiting parliamentarians could not be reached for comment.