The European Union (EU) is expected to release the findings of its investigation into human rights abuses in Cambodia in November, a move that will determine if the country continues to enjoy the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) trade preferences, according to a Cambodian labor rights activist.
The investigation was announced in February this year, following a severe crackdown by the government on the political opposition, independent media organizations and civil society groups.
Khun Tharo, coordination officer at labour rights group Central, said the European Union will release an update containing the findings of its investigation on November 11, with the Cambodian government given a chance to officially respond within the next three months.
“When the report is complete, it will be like an evaluation with a score [for Cambodia],” he said.“It will be handed to the government. The government will respond within three months.”
The European Commission sent a team earlier this year to assess the situation and ended its investigation and monitoring period on August 12. According to E.U. guidelines, it had three months to draft its findings, which will end on November 11.
The trade scheme is critical to Cambodia’s garment and footwear sector, which employs nearly one million people. Withdrawal or suspension could increase political and economic instability in the country. Political tensions are already high given Sam Rainsy’s planned return next week, which has resulted in dozens of arrests in the country.
Licadho coordinator Am Sam Ath said the government’s ongoing political crackdown would make it hard to convince the E.U. that it was capable of taking corrective measures and ensuring that it retains trade privileges.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said talks between the government and E.U. were ongoing, but refused to divulge any details.