Hun Sen and EU Ambassador Talk Elections, Land Reform

The European Union’s ambassador to Cambodia raised issues of judicial reform, land reform and the upcoming national elections in a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday morning.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting at the prime minister’s office, Mr. Hun Sen’s personal assistant, Eang Sophalleth, said that E.U. Ambassador Jean-Fran­cois Cautain had offered his support for the July 28 national elections but made no mention of the E.U. sending observers to the polls.

“He [Mr. Cautain] said all 27 countries in the Eu­ropean Union and the European institutions will support and help Cambodia in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He expressed their support and urged free and fair elections,” Mr. Sophalleth said.

“In response, [Mr. Hun Sen] said regular elections in Cambodia were very important to push Cambodia toward development and democracy,” he added.

After the country’s last national elections, in 2008, the E.U. concluded that they had failed to meet international standards, and in October the European Commission said Cambodia’s electoral system still had “major flaws.”

Mr. Sophalleth said the E.U. ambassador Monday also praised Cambodia for passing recent laws on the Penal Code and Civil Code and for establishing the Anti-Corruption Unit, but also urged passage of laws addressing the independence of lawyers, judges and the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

“Jean-Francois also raised land issues,” Mr. Sophalleth said. “In reply, [Mr. Hun Sen] explained the land reform in Cambodia and the student volunteers who are helping measure land for people.”

Since June, thousands of student volunteers have been fanning out across the country in an initiative launched by the prime minister to supply hundreds of thousands of Cambodians with private land titles.

The European Commission’s directorate-general for trade is currently reviewing a report by the U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi—which blamed the country’s policy of economic land concessions for serious and widespread human rights violations—to decide whether to launch its own investigation of the government’s land policies.

Human rights groups want the E.U. to end the duty-free access granted to Cambodian sugar currently being grown on government-awarded land concessions.

A brief statement from the E.U. about the meeting said the ambassador and prime minister had “addressed some of the key political issues of the moment, namely the incoming legislative elections, the legislative and judicial re­forms, the land reform and the education sector.”

Mr. Cautain declined to make any additional comment.

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