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Amid Tensions, Europe Considers Cutting Cambodia Aid

  • Kimseng Men

FILE - Cambodian civil rights supporters are forcibly directed by riot police as they march in protest of charges brought against local rights activists near Prey Sar prison, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 9, 2016.

FILE - Cambodian civil rights supporters are forcibly directed by riot police as they march in protest of charges brought against local rights activists near Prey Sar prison, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 9, 2016.

The European Parliament has passed a resolution condemning the worsening political climate in Cambodia and said it would tie future aid to improvements in human rights.

The resolution, which passed Thursday, called on the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to revoke the outstanding arrest warrant against Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy, who went into self-imposed exile in November after it was issued over a long-standing defamation conviction.

It also called for the release of four human rights workers and an election official jailed last month on bribery-related charges; for charges against former union representative and member of the country's election body Rong Chhun to be dropped; and for an independent investigation into an attack on two opposition lawmakers outside parliament.

All politicians, activists and human rights defenders should "be allowed to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution," a statement from the European Parliament read.

FILE - Sam Rainsy, center, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), talks to journalists upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 16, 2015.

FILE - Sam Rainsy, center, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), talks to journalists upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 16, 2015.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the resolution "only reflects the interests of the European lawmakers and politicians."

"But we will try to explain it to them so that they can understand, because we believe that they are not colonizers who can dictate to Cambodia and do whatever they want. We see them as our dialogue partners, and I thank them for their interest in Cambodia," he said.

"The order to the National Assembly to reinstate Sam Rainsy's parliamentary immunity is not acceptable," he added. "It's Sam Rainsy's responsibility to face the courts, and he has to cooperate with the courts to find justice for himself."

Rainsy is due to visit supporters and officials in the United States next week.

The CNRP's deputy president, Kem Sokha, has been barricaded inside the party's headquarters since an attempt to arrest him was made in May. He is wanted on solicitation charges and for failing to appear in court for questioning.

The resolution passed Thursday calls on EU member states and other institutions to set clear benchmarks for the forthcoming elections in Cambodia that are "consistent with international law on freedom of expression, association and assembly," and to publicly communicate these goals to Cambodian authorities and the opposition.

It also linked the bloc's more than $400 million aid package to Cambodia until 2020 to "improvements in the human rights situation."

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA'S Khmer Service.

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