When the European Union withdrew part of Cambodia’s trade privileges, the punitive move aimed to cajole Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to restore democratic politics and improve human rights.
The removal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) privileges, officially imposed on one-fifth of its exports to the EU as of August 12, will cost the crucial export sector hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lost sales every year.
Yet Phnom Penh appears unfazed, judging by an ongoing political clampdown. Dozens of government critics have been arrested and imprisoned since last year. That repression escalated this month when prominent trade union leader Rong Chhun was detained for “incitement to commit a felony”, which has sparked near-daily protests by critics of the government.