A contradiction seemingly lies in how the European Union is pursuing ties with two mainland Southeast Asian states where democracy and human rights concerns remain. As it threatens to withdraw Cambodia from its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme for the country’s democratic regression, at the same time it is on the verge of signing a free-trade deal with Vietnam, by far a worse human-rights abuser and much less democratic.
True, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen is now accustomed to using the machinery of state as if it were the private property of his ruling party. But in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party formally considers itself and the state to be the same thing and, according to its constitution, criticism of one is considered criticism of the other (at least changes to Cambodia’s constitution haven’t yet gone that far).
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