The Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accused Saturday of the EU of having taken the country "hostage" threatening to tax Cambodian exports as a measure of retaliation against the pressures of the Cambodian opposition.
The strong man from Cambodia did not like being forced to deliver and told the former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny that he was visiting Phnom Penh. His spokesman told the press Saturday that Hun Sen deplored that "about 16 million Cambodians are held hostage" by this agreement with the EU.
In October the EU threatened to suspend its preferential agreement with Cambodia, which allows it to export its products, with the exception of arms, to the Member States without paying customs duties. The textile manufacturing sector, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers, benefits mainly from this agreement, whose exports to Europe represent a billions of dollars treasure.
Since then, the government of Hun Sen has dazzled the Cambodian opponents, whose dozens have been living in exile for months after their party's ban, would have been allowed to "resume their activities".
This sudden indulgence is motivated, according to analysts, by Phnom Penh's concern to see Cambodian clothing exports to the now taxed European markets.
The main opposition party was dissolved and its leader was imprisoned before the general election last July, when the Hun Sen regime swept all the seats in Parliament, turning Cambodia into a one-party country.
These elections were reported as flawed, leading the EU to threaten to return to duty-free access for Cambodian products.
At the end of December, Hun Sen denigrated Westerners who defend "what is called democracy and human rights" for his country.
"Do not make war using what is called democracy and human rights, invoked by the democratic countries that have committed the mistake of supporting the Lon Nol coup", he had launched during a speech in front of thousands of executives.
Hun Sen, who has governed Cambodia for more than 30 years, was himself a Khmer Rouge leader before defecting. He was involved in the 1979 overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot. The United States, however, tried to keep the Khmer Rouge at the UN.