EU-Asia Relations: enabling space for CSOs and respect for Human Rights are non-negotiable. EP Resolution on Cambodia

On March 11th, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the mass trials against the opposition and civil society in Cambodia.  The text, recalling the arrest of the prominent trade unionists and human rights and environmental defenders as well as the mass trials conducted against opposition figures, encourages, among other actions, targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against Cambodian leaders and their economic interests.  

Moreover, it calls on the European Council to adopt a formal position on the human rights situation and deterioration of democracy in Cambodia and indicated that the EU should not accept Phnom Penh as the location of this year’s Asia-Europe Meeting Summit unless democracy is restored in the country.  

SOLIDAR Network in Asia* supports the European Parliament’s demands and in particular the   

  • Call on the “Cambodian Government to repeal all repressive laws … enabling the government to increase online surveillance, censorship and control of the internet, as well as to repeal all recent amendments to the … Trade Union Law, the Law on NGOs and all other pieces of legislation limiting freedom of speech and political freedoms, and which are not fully in line with Cambodia’s obligations and international standards”; 
  • Call on “the Commission and the Council to draw up a comprehensive and strategic democracy initiative with regard to the countries of the ASEAN region and to present it to the European Parliament within six months”.  

On the latter, SOLIDAR, together with its network in Asia, considers that such an initiative should have a strong focus on the development of an enabling space for CSOs and Trade Unions. This is indeed the pre-condition for the development of sound democratic systems where dissent can be freely expressed with no danger for the individuals and the organizations that express it.  

Moreover, as already highlighted in its Economic and Social Rights Monitor Report on Cambodia, SOLIDAR Network requests the EU to: 

  • Continue to put pressure on the government to comply with international human rights standards and guarantee human rights in the country, including through prolonging the suspension of the EU-Cambodia EBA trade agreement. 
  • Make the respect of International Labour Standards and human rights obligations a central item on the development cooperation agenda within Cambodia for the next Programming period 2021-2027. 

The forthcoming ASEM 13th foreseen for October 2021, is an opportunity for European governments and Members of the European Parliament together with CSOs and Trade unions to put this on the agenda and reiterate that enabling space for CSOs and respect for Human Rights are non-negotiable. 

 (*) SOLIDAR Network in Asia is supported by the EU Grant Agreement “Organising International Solidarity: structuring local to global CSOs engagement and dialogue on EU development cooperation issues”. The program is part of SOLIDAR- EU Framework Partnership Agreement.  

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SOLIDAR and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. 

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