Cambodia: EU’s failure to address recent crackdown on civil society underscores ‘business as usual’ relationship with the government

(Paris, Brussels) The European Union (EU) must publicly and unambiguously condemn the Cambodian government’s latest crackdown on civil society and take urgent measures to ensure that its trade and investment policies do not exacerbate the rapidly-deteriorating human rights situation, FIDH and its member organization, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) said today.

"The recent crackdown by the Cambodian government sends a clear message to the EU that it does not take the dialogue on human rights seriously. Despite the crackdown, Brussels signaled relations with Cambodia would be business as usual. The EU’s complacency is appalling."

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

On 2 May 2016, as EU representatives began a the three-day human rights dialogue with the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh, authorities in the country’s capital city detained four staffers of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) on politically-motivated charges [1]. ADHOC is Cambodia’s oldest human rights NGO and an FIDH member organization.

Regrettably, the EU-Cambodia joint press statement, released at the end of the dialogue on 4 May 2016, contained only a vague expression of concern over a number of human rights issues that the EU delegation said it raised during their interaction with their Cambodian counterparts. By contrast, the joint statement recorded the Cambodian government’s outrageous position that the ongoing crackdown on members of civil society and the political opposition were actions taken “to enforce the rule of law.”

The joint press statement also announced that the EU had “significantly scaled up” its development assistance and that bilateral trade and investment relations had “considerably expanded.” According to the statement, the EU concluded the bilateral dialogue by expressing its commitment “to support improvement of the country’s business and investment climate.”

"Brussels must do more to show its commitment to human rights in Cambodia. The EU must step up pressure to demand that the government end ongoing human rights violations and ensure its trade and investment policies do not ignore or facilitate further abuses."

Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Director
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