European Union Commissioner Jan Figel expressed concern over the apparent deterioration of human rights in Cambodia in a speech to the EU parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.
Figel told the parliament that Cambodia displays “worrying trends,” adding that the EU was concerned about the undemocratic methods of Funcinpec and the CPP, which have removed the immunity of three opposition lawmakers facing defamation lawsuits, The Associated Press reported.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, opposition lawmaker Chea Poch and opposition party member Cheam Channy, who in August was sentenced to seven years in prison for forming a so-called shadow army, all had their immunity stripped on Feb 3.
The EU also expressed concern about what it called the deteriorating human rights situation in Vietnam and Laos.
The EU said prison conditions and restrictions on freedom of speech remain a problem in Laos, while in Vietnam, lack of religious freedom for non-recognized religious groups continued to be a major concern.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the criticism was unjustified and demonstrated that the EU was biased.
“This criticism does not reflect reality in Cambodia,” Khieu Kanharith said. “They have the freedom to talk about Cambodia, but it’s not true, they are not in Cambodia,” he said.
“Usually the EU has a habit of criticizing the government, even about the things the government does right,” he said. “They are only supportive of the opposition.”
European Union Charge d’Affaires Winston McColgan said that the parliamentary debate was a full session discussion following a subcommittee hearing on human rights in the region about one month ago.
The EU issued a formal request in November asking that the government release on bail Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando and Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun, who were both jailed after they criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen over the border agreement with Vietnam.