Speech by Commissioner Urpilainen at the European Parliament plenary debate on the mass trials against opposition and civil society in Cambodia 11/03/2021

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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Human rights and democracy continue to be denied in Cambodia.

Over the last four years, the Cambodian authorities have taken a series of repressive actions designed to curtail political opposition and restrict the space for civil society.

Cambodia has become a de facto one-party state.

Last year, the EU decided to partially withdraw the tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) arrangement, due to serious and systematic violations of human rights.

Still, over the past months, there has been a surge in the arrests of human rights defenders and political activists.

The trial of opposition leader Kem Sokha [KUHM soh-KAAH] was suspended in March 2020 and there is no indication on when it will resume.

Earlier this month, a Cambodian Court sentenced nine leaders of the opposition in exile to 20 to 25 years in prison.

We made clear in our statements that the Cambodian authorities must respect the rule of law and due process.

The EU remains open to re-engaging with Cambodia provided Cambodia demonstrates substantial improvement regarding the EU concerns as highlighted in the Commission Regulation on the EBA withdrawal.

Cambodia should take immediate action to re-open the political space in the country, in particular:

  • a swift resolution of the case of Kem Sokha, and reinstatement of his political rights;
  • reinstate the political rights of the opposition members banned from political activities;
  • fully release all human rights defenders and activists recently put under detention, and
  • reverse the shrinking space for civil society.

The EU reiterates its call on the Cambodian authorities to initiate a process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue. We strongly believe that the principle of democratic inclusion and dialogue, including with civil society, is key to lasting peace and stability in the country.