Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday blithely brushed aside a recent threat from the European Parliament to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Cambodia over human rights abuses, challenging the body to follow through.
At a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, last week, the parliament approved a resolution accusing the ruling CPP of pursuing politically motivated charges against its opponents and urged the E.U. to make its current $465-million aid package to Cambodia contingent on improvements to the country’s human rights situation. It was the second such resolution passed by the parliament since November.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen dared the E.U. to cut aid to Cambodia, arguing that the first victims would be local NGOs.
“I have previously replied that they can do it,” he said. “If they do, who will be the first to die? I have a clear message: The first to die will be the nongovernment organizations that are paid for by foreigners.”
The ruling CPP is fond of painting some of the country’s human rights groups as the subversive tools of their paymasters in capitals across the West. Unlike some countries that funnel their aid strictly through nongovernment groups, however, the E.U. gives a substantial portion of its aid directly to the government.
Hitting on yet another favorite topic on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen said that China, Cambodia’s largest investor, placed no such conditions on its financial support.
“I am never afraid of China because Cambodia has its own independent policies, and China has never ordered Cambodia to do this or that,” he said. “I would like to tell some people not to threaten Cambodia by threatening cuts.”
Analysts say Cambodia has had to repay China in other ways, by returning Uighur asylum-seekers, for example, and supporting Beijing’s territorial claims to the South China Sea at international forums.