Last week (5 October), EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced the EU’s response to the “human rights situation in Myanmar and Cambodia”.
In respect of Cambodia, the EU has given notice that it will launch the process of withdrawing Cambodia from the Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement, which grants full tariff-free access to the European market for all exports, except arms and armaments.
In respect of Myanmar/Burma, the EU has given notice of its intention to “send an emergency, high-level EU mission to the country in the coming days to assess the situation on the ground. This high-level mission is within the framework of a potential withdrawal of Myanmar from the [EBA] arrangement. There is a clear possibility that a withdrawal could be the outcome.”
The EU has said that it will keep its channels of dialogue with both countries open, and that EU Member States will be kept informed of the next steps.
Yesterday, the EU adopted conclusions on the situation in Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia and Maldives.
In respect of Myanmar/Burma (particularly Rakhine State), the EU condemned the “ongoing widespread, systematic grave human rights violations committed by Myanmar/Burma military and security forces”. It also invited the High Representative to make proposals for an extension to the existing arms embargo, as well as targeted sanctions to be imposed against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) responsible for “serious and systematic human rights violations”. Links to the EU conclusions on Myanmar/Burma and the press release.
In respect of Cambodia, the EU decided that it might consider targeted measures if the “continu[ed] deterioration of democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law” in Cambodia failed to improve. It particular, the EU urged the Cambodian Government to “stop using the judiciary as a political tool to harass and intimidate political opponents, civil society, labour rights activists and human rights defenders”. Links to EU conclusions on Cambodia and the press release.
In relation to Maldives, the EU called on the competent Maldivian institutions to “lift immediately the state of emergency and restore all constitutionally guaranteed rights”. It also decided that if the current situation failed to improve, targeted measures might be considered. Links to EU conclusions on Maldives and the press release.
Last week, the Cambodia Accountability and Return on Investment Act of 2018 was introduced in the US Senate. The Bill makes provision for sanctions (US travel restrictions and asset freezes) to be imposed on “individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia”, including senior officials of the Government of Cambodia (including the military, gendarmerie, police, and judiciary), officers and employees of entities owned or controlled by such officials, and immediate family members of those officials.
The Bill also requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose the extension by that institution of any loan or financial or technical assistance for the Government of Cambodia, other than to meet basic human needs”. The Bill has now been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
The US has announced that “in direct response to the Cambodian government’s series of anti-democratic actions”, it will be restricting entry for those individuals involved in “undermining democracy in Cambodia”.
The acts of the Cambodian government triggering these visa restrictions are stated to be “the dissolution of the main opposition political party and banning of its leaders from electoral politics, imprisonment of opposition leader Kem Sokha, restriction of civil society, and suppression of independent media”. Click here for the US Department of State press release.