CNRP Says EU Resolution a Strong Signal to Government

The CNRP will stay in close contact with European Union (E.U.) officials to ensure a resolution on Thursday, which calls for an investigation into July’s national election and this month’s slaying of five protesters, will be followed up with action, opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said Sunday.

The European Parliament passed the resolution calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to conduct an independent and internationally-led investigation into last July’s contested election and the killing of five garment factory protesters, and the wounding of more than 40 others, on January 3.

“We have very strong support in the E.U. Parliament and we will stay in close contact to hold the international community, as a whole, accountable to its obligations,” Ms. Sochua said.

Cutting aid to Cambodia might be an option for the E.U., which is Cambodia’s largest single aid donor, Ms. Sochua said.

“We don’t consider this government legitimate, and it is a question of legitimacy. Aid should not be channeled through a government that is not legitimate, and so efforts must be made to restore legitimacy to the government through re-election,” she said.

Ek Tha, spokesperson for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said that the CPP government hoped the E.U. would appreciate the government’s announcement to investigate the killings of protesters, and not consider cuts to aid.

“On the incident of January 3, the government has an investigation team and an investigation will take place,” Mr. Tha said.

“Cambodians ask donors not to cut donor aid to Cambodia, because we need friendly nations to support us. The Cambodian people have gone through so much pain already for 30 years,” he said.

E.U. Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

The European Parliament’s strongly-worded resolution stands in contrast to earlier E.U. appraisals on human rights and fair elections in Cambodia.

Ahead of July’s election, a draft memo written by E.U. experts dismissed several audits of Cambodia’s voter list that said up to 1 million voters could be disenfranchised during the election.

The independent analysis figure of 1 million could be attributed to an “unavoidable margin of error,” the E.U. experts said. Several rights groups and election monitors met the E.U. memo with surprise.

In October 2012, a resolution was passed calling on the European Commission to investigate forced evictions on Cambodian sugar plantations receiving preferential access to the E.U., and for the suspension of those benefits “where human rights abuses are identified.”

In March last year, however, the E.U.’s trade commissioners, as well as E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, signed a letter saying that the E.U. had no plans to carry out any investigation in Cambodia.

Human rights groups have long accused sugar plantations exporting produce to the E.U. of engaging in land grabbing from the rural poor, and have criticized the E.U. for not investigating the alleged abuse.

The Coca-Cola Company said in November that land grabs by sugar plantations were “unacceptable” and that it would start investigating companies its sources sugar from, including firms with plantations in Cambodia, and put an end to its business with any found to be involved in land-grabbing or human rights abuses.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday that the resolution was a strong signal to both the European Commission and the Cambodian government.

“The resolution is just a statement but it could affect the European Commission,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“They [the European Parliament] are asking the European Commission to implement the cooperation agreement between Cambodia and the E.U., and one provision of that is the respect for human rights. This will increase the pressure on the European Commission,” he said.

Commenting on the demand for an investigation into the shooting dead of five stone-throwers by his forces on January 3, National military police spokesman Kheng Tito said that the E.U. should be satisfied by the announcement of a local investigation into the killings.

“This is a Khmer issue,” Brigadier General Tito added.

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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