EU Official: ‘Worrying Trends’ in Human Rights

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.



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