By Lauren Crothers
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AA) – The European Union’s failure to hold the Cambodian government accountable for the most recent wave of civil society arrests has been “appalling,” the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said late Wednesday.
FIDH, which is headquartered in Paris, said in a statement that it was disappointed with the outcome of the latest visit by an EU delegation to Cambodia in early May, when pressure on civil society began intensifying in earnest.
"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,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Despite the crackdown, Brussels signaled relations with Cambodia would be business as usual. The EU’s complacency is appalling.”
The crackdown refers to the prison detention of four staffers from rights group Adhoc, as well as a member of the National Election Committee.
The charges of bribery and acting as an accomplice, which were initially laid May 2, are linked to their having assisted a woman who admitted to having had an affair with Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The woman had told police the rights workers urged her to lie about the affair.
The charges were laid on the same day that an EU delegation began a three-day visit to Cambodia.
“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,” said FIDH, of which Adhoc is a member organization.
“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’.”
EU representatives in Cambodia could not be reached late Wednesday.