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EU suspends support for Cambodian election

Posted by pakin On December - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

PHNOM PENH: The European Union announced on Tuesday that it is suspending funding for Cambodia’s general election next year over the forced dissolution of the country’s main opposition party.

“In view of the decision by the Cambodian Supreme Court on 16 November to order the dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, the European Commission has decided to suspend its assistance to the National Election Committee,” said a press statement issued by the EU delegation to Cambodia.

“An electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded cannot be seen as legitimate,” the statement said.

The decision to dissolve the CNRP, and the subsequent reallocation of its seats in the National Assembly to other parties, denies the choice of those who voted for the party, it added.

In the last general election in 2013, the CNRP won 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, against 68 seats captured by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The party was expected to do well in next year’s election.

Critics say the court’s verdict is only part of a wide-ranging crackdown on opposition politicians and independent media by Prime Minister Hun Sen for fear of losing the next election.

The EU’s move follows a similar suspension by the United States, which last month announced the termination of its support for the NEC.

NEC spokesman Sam Sorida told Kyodo News that the EU’s move will not affect the holding of the 2018 general election as the government has sufficient funds.

However, he acknowledged that any assistance would help reduce spending by the Cambodian government.

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday denied that former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had used Cambodia to flee Thailand.

Hun Sen made the remarks during a closed-door weekly meeting with some 4,400 garment workers at Koh Pich Grand Theatre in Phnom Penh, the minister said, without giving other details.

The denial came after media reported that the former Thai prime minister fled her country through Cambodia and Singapore for Dubai earlier this week, after she failed to show up at a court trial.

Thailand’s Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Yingluck on Friday after she failed to appear in court on the judgment day of a rice lawsuit filed against her.

The Supreme Court postponed the reading of the verdict for the case against Yingluck until Sept. 27. Her lawyer had reported that the former leader was suffering from Meniere’s disease and feeling dizzy and thus was unable to attend.

Sources from Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party told the media Saturday that Yingluck had left Thailand last week and flew via Cambodia and Singapore to Dubai where her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, lives in self-imposed exile.

Political uncertainty in Cambodia has forced the garment and footwear industry to look to alternative countries to meet production needs, forcing more than 70 factories to close and a sharp drop in orders, a senior official from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said.

Speaking at a press conference before the 6th Cambodia International Textile and Garment Industry Exhibition and Machinery Industry Fair in Phnom Penh on Monday, Ly Tek Heng, the GMAC operations manager, painted a worrying picture of the first eight months of the year, the Khmer Times reported on Tuesday.

“I think the political situation has affected business, both businessmen and investors. When one country has instability in politics, it is difficult to make investments and there are concerns, especially from buyers,” he said.

“The political issues, illegal demonstrations and competition from the other garment and footwear exporting countries such Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar has deterred investors from investing in Cambodia and has made buyers reluctant to order products from Cambodia.”

He said that in the first eight months of this year, more than 70 factories had been shuttered, while only 20 new ones had opened. This came as orders from buyers for footwear and clothing made in Cambodia dropped by almost 30%, forcing not only closures, but the slashing of hours for workers.

The decline in orders has had a knock-on effect within the industry, leading to a decline in orders for machinery used to make clothing and footwear, warned Akai Lin from Chan Chao International, which organised the fair.

“For the last few years, the demand for machinery in manufacturing has been great, but now it is decreasing slightly due to factory closures, leading some buyers to wait for the political situation to improve before making orders,” he warned.

Commerce Ministry spokesperson Soeng Sophary on Monday downplayed the news, telling the Khmer Times that the closure of factories did not mean the industry was under threat. She blamed global insecurity for the closures, citing the upcoming presidential elections in the United States, the recent referendum in the United Kingdom where just over half the population voted to leave the European Union, as well as the high price of electricity.

“Cambodia is a small country which depends on garment exports, and as such is affected by outside issues as our export market focuses on the UK and US. The factory closures are maybe due to changing demand in the EU and US. The economic waves in foreign countries have an impact on Cambodia,” Sophary said.

“However, it is not only the impact from outside the country, but also domestically, since investors are looking for profit with low operational costs. So if the operational costs in other countries are lower than Cambodia, they could turn to those countries. We have an issue on electricity and labor costs that we be must be alert to,” she said.

She stressed that it was too early to judge whether the industry was in trouble, as the 70 closed factories need to be compared with the 20 which have opened, which may be bigger or more important.

In contrast to GMAC’s figure of a 30% drop in buyer’s orders suggesting trouble in the garment sector, recent figures released by the ministry paint a far healthier picture. The ministry stated that total garment and footwear exports in the first quarter of this year have increased by 39% to $2 billion.

The EU was the largest market, taking $717.8 million in goods, followed by the US at $419.2 million and $41.7 million to Canada.

In 2015, total exports in the sector were $6.3 billion, a 7.6% growth over 2014, with 699 factories ‒ from 73 in 2014.

Cambodia resettlement ‘voluntary’

Posted by pakin On September - 25 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

PHNOM PENH — An Australian government minister said on Thursday that only refugees who volunteer will be resettled in Cambodia as part of a new bilateral pact.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will sign the pact with Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng in Phnom Penh on Friday to resettle refugees that Australia rejects. Morrison said Australia will support the refugees to build new lives in Cambodia.

“The arrangement is strictly voluntary,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra. “Anyone who chooses to go to Cambodia will have chosen themselves to go to Cambodia.”

The deal, which has been criticized by human rights groups, places no cap on the number of refugees that Cambodia is prepared to accept for permanent settlement, Morrison said.

“Support will be tailored to the needs of those as part of a package of measures that will go to their resettlement which is designed to make them self-reliant as quickly as possible,” Mr Morrison said.

Cambodian officials have long insisted that any resettlement must be done on a voluntary basis.

The deal has been condemned by the minor Australian Greens party which predicts refugees will be pressured to go to Cambodia.

“What is Australia offering one of the most corrupt nations on Earth to be Australia’s human dumping ground?” Greens Sen Sarah Hanson-Young asked Thursday.

The Refugee Council of Australia, an advocacy group, said in a statement Thursday that the agreement was yet another example of Australia deflecting its international obligations on to a much poorer country which lacked the capacity to provide effective protection to refugees.

On Thursday, Morrison moved to make Australia a less attractive destination for asylum seekers by introducing legislation to Parliament that would create temporary refugee visas. Instead of permanent residency, up to 30,000 refugees would be given three-year temporary protection visas.

After such visas expire, refugees could be sent back to their homelands if conditions had improved.

Both Cambodian and Australian officials have previously said they were discussing the possibility of resettling some of the more than 1,100 people housed in a camp on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Australia pays Nauru to house the asylum seekers, mostly from South Asia and the Middle East, and has a similar deal with Papua New Guinea. Human rights groups have criticized living conditions at the camps.

Cambodia Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said details of the deal may be revealed Friday after the signing. It is widely assumed that Australia will pay Cambodia to house the asylum seekers as permanent settlers rather than in holding camps.

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